There is only one known vaccine that prevents cancer. Knowing this, wouldn’t you want to protect yourself or use it to eliminate the risk of a deadly cancer for your child?
There are more than 150 types of human papilloma virus (HPV). Of these, 13 types are high-risk and can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, mouth, throat and penis. The HPV vaccine can prevent all of these.
The FDA has approved extending the vaccine to persons between 27 and 45 years old, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting the vaccine as
early as age 9. Being inoculated causes no more negative side effects (low-grade fever, headache, soreness) than any other vaccine.
The vaccine Gardasil 9 provides immunity against nine different types of HPV strains.
“In most cases the immune system will clear your body of the virus in an average of one to three years, but this depends on the strength of your immune system and how aggressive the virus is,” says Dr. Elisabete Sharp of Thompson Health’s Victor Family Practice. “Even if a patient gets infected with one type of HPV strain prior to getting the vaccine, they can still take the vaccine and benefit from getting protection from the other strains.”Who needs the HPV vaccine?
“Everyone,” asserts Karen Yax, a family nurse practitioner at Thompson Health’s Honeoye Family Practice.
A single exposure to HPV can put you at risk of one day developing cancer.
Unfortunately, many Americans have attached a stigma to the HPV vaccine because it provides protection against a virus that is spread by sexual activity. Many people wrongly believe that if you get a vaccine that prevents a sexually transmitted infection, it encourages promiscuity.
Some parents believe it’s too soon for pre-teens to face this topic, and their unwillingness to have open discussion with physicians has led to a controversy over the vaccine.
Chances are, those who hesitate to get the HPV vaccine for their children due to its sexual connotation have already approved having their infant receive the Hepatitis B vaccine, another disease that spreads primarily through sexual activity.
For accurate information regarding your concerns, you should consult with your physician.
“Always feel comfortable having an open conversation with your provider and voicing your concerns openly,” urges Sharp. “That’s the only way to make an informed decision about the vaccine to protect your kids.”
It is also a myth that the vaccine can have a negative effect on mental cognition, Yax says. She is incredulous that anyone would hesitate to get the HPV vaccine.
“People downplay the importance of the HPV vaccine, shrugging it off as ‘not a big deal,’” Yax says. “But 80 percent of Americans have been exposed to HPV. Death rates are high. It’s a no-brainer. You’re preventing a cancer. Why would you want to put your kids at risk for cancer?”
HPV is most commonly associated with cancers affecting the genitals, but Yax says there is an upswing in the number of young people with oral cancers. Particularly among young men. But oral cancer can strike indiscriminately.
Yax knows. She was diagnosed with tongue cancer caused by HPV when she was 41. Two-thirds of her tongue was removed, then reconstructed with skin from her forearm. Thirty rounds of radiation later she’s doing well. She has not lost her ability to taste, and chances of cancer reoccurrence are almost zero.
Yax acknowledges it can be difficult to broach the issues of HPV with your children; however, doing so encourages the kind of conversation and openness kids crave.
“You want your kids to feel comfortable coming and talking to you,” she says. “This shows you can talk and that is good for the relationship.”
Sharp has some pointed but simple advice for all parents.
“Parents need to think about the HPV vaccine as a cancer prevention vaccine,” she says. “Protect your kids. Vaccinate them.”