Paid Advertisement by Ohio Department of Health Comprehensive Cancer Control Program
The following is reproduced with permission; by Frederic Lumiere, Filmmaker / January 31, 2016.
Every two minutes, a woman dies of cervical cancer.
With only a few weeks left to live, Michele Baldwin had a dream. She wanted the world to know that other women didn’t have to die from the disease that was about to take her life: cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is almost completely preventable but it kills more than 260,000 women worldwide.
- HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.
- Most women infected with HPV (that’s virtually all sexually active women) will get rid of the virus on their own, but approximately 10% of them won’t. These women will develop cervical dysplasia, or precancerous changes of the cells on the cervix. Early stages of cervical dysplasia are very treatable, but women 21 and older must go for their scheduled pap smears and HPV test to identify if they fall into the 10%. Then, depending on the stage of dysplasia (CIN 1,2,3), a variety of procedures can reduce or remove the precancerous cells.
- Left unchecked, cervical dysplasia can evolve into cervical cancer. Most cervical cancers take years to develop, but in some cases, like in the case of my friend Kelly Pozzoli, it can progress a lot faster and be deadly. Three months after getting a clear pap smear, a 4.5 centimeter tumor was discovered on Kelly’s cervix. Kelly died on World Cancer Day, two years ago, at 33.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women younger than 21 do not get pap smears or HPV screenings. So how can sexually active woman under 21 be protected? The answer is the HPV vaccine.
The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 and 12 to protect them when they have the best antibody response for when they will be sexually active as adults. Just like the Hepatitis B vaccine, another sexually transmitted infection, it is given to kids.
It’s important to vaccinate boys because they are part of the transmission equation, but also because HPV infections can cause anal cancer, throat cancer, and genital warts in both men and women, as well as vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women and penile cancer in men. It’s estimated that more than 16 million Americans have HPV in their mouths, mostly men. HPV can easily be transmitted from the genitals to the mouth and vice versa.