HPV vaccine linked to dramatic drop in cervical cancer deaths, so why are vaccination rates low?

Woman gets an HPV vaccination in her arm

Thanks in part to the HPV vaccine, rates of cervical cancer fell by 65%, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. (Getty Images)

According to a new report from the American Cancer Society, rates of Cervical cancer has decreased by 65% among women in their 20s from 2012 to 2019. These women are part of the first cohort to receive the HPV vaccine, which The Food and Drug Administration approved it to fight human papillomavirus (HPV) in 2006a group of viruses that cause various types of cancer.

dr Tracy Seoclinical director of breast and cervical cancer screening and outreach for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, Yahoo Life Tells Study Shows Vaccine “Prevents Cancer and Saves Lives. … We see benefits.”

However, we still have a long way to go before HPV is eliminated. Although these cancers are now almost completely preventable, HPV vaccination rates are increasing stay low.

What is HPV?

HPV is very common. About 13 million people, including teenagers, become infected with HPV each year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seo notes that 80% of the population will become infected with HPV at some point in their lives.

Because HPV is so widespread, Seo recommends that everyone who is eligible for the vaccine get vaccinated. In most cases, thanks to the immune system, HPV will go away on its own within two years without causing health problems or symptoms. But in some cases, depending on the HPV strain, an infection can be the cause genital warts or serious complications, including cancerwhich may not appear until decades after the initial infection.

“The best-known HPV-related cancer is cervical cancer,” dr Amy Banulis, a gynecologist at Kaiser Permanente in Falls Church, Virginia, told Yahoo Life. “But the virus can also cause cancer of the vagina, vulva, anus, penis, and throat.” Among those infected with HPV, more than 36,000 people a year HPV-related cancer is diagnosed. thousands of them will die.

Why are HPV vaccination rates low?

dr Ruchi Garg, corporate chairman for gynecologic oncology at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), part of City of Hope, and gynecologic oncologist at CTCA Atlanta, tells Yahoo Life that when the HPV vaccine was first introduced, many healthcare professionals welcomed the vaccine “major advance” in cancer prevention. However, Garg explains that many of those who were eligible for the vaccine did not get it due to concerns about its safety and effectiveness, in addition to fears that it would lead to “sexual promiscuity” as HPV is commonly transmitted sexually .

Persistent misinformation on social media and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine spilling over to other vaccines have kept HPV vaccination rates low, Garg said. dr Theofano Orfanelli, Assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital, tells Yahoo Life that despite evidence the vaccine is safe and effective, HPV vaccination rates remain “suboptimal” in the US.

2020, only about half of the youth in the US were up to date with their HPV vaccines. This is in contrast to other countries like the UK and the Netherlands, which Orfanelli said have achieved much higher vaccination rates. This is significant because “there is evidence of herd immunity in populations with high vaccination rates,” says Balinus. “Scientists estimate that cervical cancer could be eliminated if 80% of people received the vaccine and recommended cervical cancer screening tests.”

How HPV affects human health and fertility

Garg sees firsthand how preventable HPV-related cancers impact the lives of her patients. “As a gynecologic oncologist, I’ve seen a huge impact on cervical cancer patients, mostly younger women of reproductive age,” she says. “There can be life-changing implications for these patients and their families, including infertility from cancer treatment. The vaccine also prevents precancerous lesions and benign lesions, resulting in significant social, health and economic impacts.”

Orfanelli shares that “Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer [related to] HPV infections tend to be more proactive…”having their children vaccinated against HPV” after experiencing the effects of HPV themselves.

That goes for Kate-Madonna Hindes. Shortly after giving birth to their daughter in 2005, Hindes was diagnosed with cervical cancer and HPV. Hindes required multiple surgeries and invasive procedures to treat her cancer, including a radical hysterectomy. She was subsequently diagnosed with several other types of cancer. “HPV has riddled my life with grief, medical trauma and immense pain,” Hindes told Yahoo Life. “It cost me my ability to have another child and potentially a whole different career.”

She adds: “I was a healthy adult who accidentally contracted HPV – which led to decades of cancer treatment. The toll of misinformation is much heavier than we realize.”

Because the HPV vaccine wasn’t introduced until 2006, Hindes was unable to get vaccinated before she was diagnosed. “The vaccine would have saved my fertility and changed my life completely,” she says. “I missed the window by just a few years.”

However, Hindes is grateful that her older child is already fully vaccinated against HPV and says her younger child will get the HPV shot as soon as it is eligible. “I believe the best choice we can make as parents is to be well informed and educated about the risks and benefits. I decided to get vaccinated because the risk of HPV-related cancer far outweighed a negative and very rare vaccine reaction,” she says.

Hindes was “thrilled” by the study, which showed a drastic drop in cervical cancer rates. “It signals hope on the horizon,” she says, adding that more funding is needed for HPV research and education to produce even better results.

Garg shares Hindes’ hope more eligible persons because the vaccine will decide to get it and that more parents will vaccinate their children.

When should you get the HPV vaccine?

Boys and girls should both be vaccinated between the ages of 9 and 26, most commonly with a two-dose series. “However, vaccinating adolescents aged 11 and 12 before they become sexually active and are exposed to HPV is key to making the vaccine as effective as possible,” explains Garg.

However, if you miss this window, it may not be too late. The HPV vaccine is approved for use in adults up to the age of 45, and Garg recommends that unvaccinated adults talk to their doctor about getting the HPV vaccine.

“There remains an urgent need in the United States for intensive, coordinated advocacy and public education campaigns by the healthcare ecosystem to advance HPV vaccination through data, education, conversation and practice,” says Garg.

Over 130 million doses of the HPV vaccine administered over 15 years have “confirmed its safety,” Seo emphasizes. She stresses that although some parents worry that the HPV vaccine will cause infertility or encourage their children to become sexually active earlier, there is no evidence that either is true. Additionally, Garg emphasizes that while there is no evidence that HPV affects fertility, treatment for HPV-related cancer, including chemotherapy, “can limit the ability to have children.”

“I am encouraged by the steady increase in vaccinations. We’re going in the right direction,” Seo says, adding that she hopes the study showing the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine will “convince more people to get vaccinated.”

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https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/hpv-vaccine-reduced-cervical-cancer-deaths-205354869.html HPV vaccine linked to dramatic drop in cervical cancer deaths, so why are vaccination rates low?

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