Monday, March 5, 2018

Cancer Prevention? I’ll have a dose of that!

By Maria Monge, MD, Austin
TMA Be Wise — ImmunizeSM Physician Advisory Panel

In my job as an adolescent medicine doctor, I talk to many patients and their families about human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. Because teenagers are generally healthy, my visits with them typically focus on ways to stay healthy throughout their lifetimes. The HPV vaccine is an important part of this.

I regularly share this important information with my patients and their families about HPV infection and HPV vaccination:

  1. HPV is very common. At least 80 percent of people living in the United States will become infected with HPV in their lifetimes. It is almost impossible to avoid infection, and HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact. Fortunately, most people’s bodies can fight off the infection, so they do not develop any long-lasting effects. Some are not so lucky.
  2. HPV infection can cause cancer. Each year in the United States, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with cancer caused by HPV infection. These cancers include cervical, head and neck, vulvar, vaginal, penile, and anal.
  3. The HPV vaccine prevents cancer. The HPV vaccine prevents more than 97 percent of the virus’ infectious strains. Because of this, in only a little more than a decade of HPV vaccine use, worldwide rates of precancer cells of the cervix have decreased by more than 50 percent. It is estimated that with increased HPV vaccine rates, almost all —more than 90 percent — of cancers caused by HPV could be prevented.
  4. The HPV vaccine is safe. Multiple studies in millions of teenagers worldwide who have received the HPV vaccine have shown the HPV vaccine is safe and effective.
  5. Early HPV vaccination is best and strongly recommended. The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years. If the vaccine is started before someone turns 15, they only need 2 doses of the vaccine because the response is better at a younger age. Receiving the vaccination early — before exposure to HPV — also increases protection.

My passion is to help teenagers and young adults live happy, healthy lives. Toward that end, I recommend the HPV vaccine to all my patients.  

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