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HPV Vaccine Could Shift Rates of Non-Cervical Cancers

HPV Vaccine Could Shift Rates of Non-Cervical Cancers

Jan. 12, 2022 -- A recent headline about dramatic reductions in cervical cancer among young women as a result of the HPV vaccine did not tell the whole story of how vaccination could also have an impact on many other cancer types. Even with the good news of cervical cancer rates dropping dramatically, HPV is…

Jan. 12, 2022 — A recent headline about dramatic reductions in cervical cancer among young women as a result of the HPV vaccine did not tell the whole story of how vaccination could also have an impact on many other cancer types. Even with the good news of cervical cancer rates dropping dramatically, HPV is still associated with a wide range of other cancers, says Daniel Kelly, RN, PhD, co-chair of the HPV Action Network of the European Cancer Organization. HPV is also associated with anal, penile, vaginal, vulval, and throat cancers, rates of which have been increasing in recent years. As HPV vaccination in girls has already had such a profound impact on cervical cancer rates, it is expected that universal HPV vaccination (of boys as well as girls) would also cause a shift in the relative rates of these other cancers, Kelly says. “These are difficult cancers to treat,” Kelly says, and they are also difficult cancers in terms of the impact they can have on everyday activities. For someone with head and neck cancer, “you might take away their ability to speak, to swallow,” while penile cancer“is certainly very devastating to men who are diagnosed.” In order to highlight the impact of these cancers, and to raise awareness of universal HPV vaccination for boys as well as girls, Kelly’s group launched a series of testimonies that illustrate how doctors may initially miss a diagnosis of HPV-related head and neck cancer. For Rachel Parsons, 37, a mother of five, it took half a year to get a diagnosis of oral cancer. She spent that 6 months being shuttled back and forth between her family doctor and her dentist with a growing and painful mouth ulcer. She still considers herself lucky. After surgery lasting over 9 hours, her cancer was removed. However, the next year saw her going in and out of hospitals for surgical complications, and that put a strain on her marriage to her firefighter husband, Tim. “We drifted apart to the stage of thinking: You know what, I don’t want to be with you anymore,” Parsons says. It was only after they had a talk with the minister who married them, and a firefighters’ charity organized child care so they could have a few days away from their children, that the couple started to find a way to communicate. “That was sort of the making of us getting back together after cancer nearly destroyed us,” Parsons says. “I know so many people where cancer has literally ruined their relationship, so we were very lucky that we didn’t let cancer beat us.” Now she campaigns tirelessly with the Mouth Cancer Foundation to raise awareness of HPV and HPV-related oral cancer. “It’s very important that people are more aware about HPV and I am very active in trying to get people to listen,” Parsons says. Another of the testimonies comes from Josef Mombers, who was given a diagnosis of HPV-related cancer of the penis 3

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