By: Jean Lilquist
You may remember when actor Michael Douglas announced he had developed throat cancer in 2013. The photographs of his gaunt face were haunting. But did you know that kids today shouldn’t ever have to worry about getting that cancer? Or any cancers of the mouth, tongue, or throat? Girls shouldn’t need to worry about cervical cancer; boys can rest easier about penis cancer.
The magical elixir?
The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine. For a decade this vaccine has been available for both girls and boys, yet too few kids have had it. Originally it required a series of three vaccinations, but that is now just two. Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 14 million people become newly infected each year with the cancer-causing forms of HPV? Did you know that there is an epidemic of HPV-related cancers in men, specifically those of the tonsil and the back of the tongue? And did you know that the HPV vaccine works—infections with the human papillomavirus tied to cervical cancer fell by more than half in U.S. teen girls after the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006. And that is despite the relatively low rate of preteen girls who got the vaccine.
More than two thirds of healthy Americans have some form of the human papillomavirus, although most of these are benign. In fact, there are 109 known different types. They commonly cause warts and other lesions, but two in particular, HPV 16 and HPV 18, cause cancers of the cervix, anus, and penis, as well as mouth and throat. Types 6 and 11 can cause lesions and genital warts. Gardasil, the only vaccine now in production, protects against those four plus five other forms of the virus.
The vaccine should be fully covered by health insurance, so cost is not an issue. Neither is safety – the CDC says after 67 million vaccinations have been given, there is so sign of any serious side effects. The main side effect is fainting – something common in teens getting any vaccine, so they’re advised to rest for 15 minutes before leaving the clinic or office where they got the shot.
This article is reprinted from H.O.P.E. Lifeline (January, 2017) - monthly newsletter distributed by H.O.P.E. Click here to view the full newsletter. If you would like to receive the newsletter by e-mail each month, you may subscribe today (no cost or obligation and you may unsubscribe at any time).