Sunday, March 27, 2011

Make an Educated Decision About the HPV Vaccine

Once upon a time there was a state governor who thought that he was doing his state a favor by making the HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls, the same way that other childhood vaccines are required by law. But the state was up in arms about the entire thing and made such a big deal about it that the governor took back the mandate and said that parents could opt out. However, this is what he had to say about the matter in his official press release.

(Genome organization of human papillomavirus type 16, one of the subtypes known to cause cervical cancer.- Wikipedia)

“Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity anymore than providing the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use. If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?"

One of the main reasons that parents were against the vaccination had more to do with sex than any other thing. People argued that giving the girls the vaccine in their pre-teen years would encourage them to become sexually promiscuous. I was perplexed. I knew little about HPV, or so I thought. I wanted to know why parents were saying this, so I did the research.

What I found out was that I was already acquainted with the consequences of HPV. When we were in our  twenties one of my good friends was diagnosed with abnormal pre-cancerous cells on her cervix. Our OBGYN, an older very experienced doctor, was extremely pro-active and aggressive with her treatment. He first froze the cells and when that didn't work he went in to cut them off. He was always very honest along the way and told her about her options and the possible consequences. Even cutting the cervix could affect her future fertility. Thank goodness my friend was cured and she went on to have a child in her thirties.

After that scare I never skipped a well-woman exam. I had witnessed first hand what can happen from one pap smear one year to the next. What if my friend had skipped her well woman exam that year? What could have happened? 

I don't know for sure if it was an HPV virus that caused my friend's pre-cancerous cells on her cervix, but it very well could have been, because as I did the research now that I'm older I found that this was one of the most common results from the human papillomavirus. As I talked to other friends I found out that HPV was more common than I knew and they too had been affected in some way.

I also learned that "70% of infections are gone in 1 year and 90% in 2 years. However, when the infection persists—in 5% to 10% of infected women—there is high risk of developing precancerous lesions of the cervix, which can progress to invasive cervical cancer." And here is the part that is really significant when we think of young girls. "This process usually takes 15–20 years, providing many opportunities for detection and treatment of the pre-cancerous lesion." This is the reason why it's important to vaccinate girls, and now we are learning boys, before they start having sexual contact.

I also read an article in The Houston Chronicle that a study found that throat cancer was added to list of diseases caused by HPV. I read another article (that I can't find now) about men who were fighting mouth cancer caused by HPV. One man interviewed in the article was not ashamed to talk about it. He said that he wished he had known more about HPV when he was younger.

Think about it this way. You have your children vaccinated for polio, even if there is no chance that your child will ever come in contact with polio in their life. You also have them vaccinated when they are babies so the medication is already in their system and they are protected. You do the same thing for Hepatitis B, even though this is a common disease of drug users.

What about sex then? Even though we don't want to imagine that our kids will grow up and have sex one day the truth is they will. Even if the abstain from sex and don't have it until they get married they will eventually do it. Can you predict that they are going to marry someone who has never had sex before?

Why are we even saying that it will encourage kids to become promiscuous? That just seems completely irrelevant to me. When I have my kids vaccinated I won't explain it to them any more that I explain their other vaccinations. They are getting a vaccine to protect them from a form of cancer in the future and that's all.

Governor Perry also said this, "The HPV vaccine does not promote sex, it protects women’s health. In the past, young women who have abstained from sex until marriage have contracted HPV from their husbands and faced the difficult task of defeating cervical cancer. This vaccine prevents that from happening."

HPV is real and it's out there. Many of us have had HPV and we may not even know it. I personally want to protect my children from having cancer in the future and I want to have them vaccinated. Others argue that Gardasil only protects them from four of the 200 known types of HPV so why do it. Well, if I can protect them from four of the most common known types then that is better than not protecting them at all.

If you have doubts about HPV and the vaccine I encourage you all to do the research. Read all that you can on HPV. Don't make your decisions based on what I say or what the media says. Talk to your doctor, read scientific articles about it, read the research, and then make an educated decision.


Christine said...

I had a thoughtful comment all written out and submitted it, then the internet ate it.
I'll rewrite it later :)

Christine78 from Twitter
(and christine918 from Skirt)

Unknown said...

It is really nice advice and I would follow this. Thanks for written sensible article.