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Posts Tagged ‘Human Papillomavirus’

What Your Dentist Should Be Telling You About Oral Cancer and HPV

April 6, 2018 2 comments

oral-cancer-monthI had my teeth cleaned yesterday, and while I was at the dentist I remembered that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. 

The dentist never mentioned it, but I knew just what she was doing when she put her gloves on and started rolling her fingers around the inside of my checks, under my tongue and on the outside of my neck and jaw.  She was doing what all oral health professionals should do – a thorough examination that could help with early detection of oropharyngeal cancers (also known as cancers of the throat and tongue) which are commonly caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). 

As someone who has been diagnosed with two different cancers in the past, I no longer think “not me”.  Quite honestly, knowing how prevalent HPV is (it’s estimated that 80% of sexually active people will contract HPV at some point in their life) it’s probably more likely that I would be diagnosed with an HPV related cancer than many other types of cancer. Although most cases of HPV resolve without incident, the fact remains that approximately 14 million new cases of HPV occur in the U.S. each year, with at least 79 million people estimated to be currently infected and about 31,500 cases of HPV related cancers diagnosed in men and women each year in the U.S.. This includes cancers in the oropharynx, cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and anus.  

While HPV can cause up to six different types of cancer, oral cancers are on the rise.  It’s estimated that HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer affects about 16,400 people each year, and that by year 2020, it will become the most common HPV-related cancer in the US, surpassing cervical cancer.  

Here are a few other details to consider:

While I’m pleased that my dentist took the time to closely examine my neck, throat, mouth and tongue for any abnormalities, I’m disappointed that she didn’t take the opportunity to discuss the importance of HPV vaccination with me. 

Education of the public regarding the risk factors which lead to oral cancer, recognition of the early signs and symptoms, and the development of patient awareness, are primary responsibilities of the dental community.  

In 2017, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) issued a policy statement on HPV vaccination that encourages oral health care providers to educate patients and parents on the relationship of HPV to oral and oropharyngeal cancer and to counsel them regarding the HPV vaccination, in accordance with CDC recommendations. Currently, the CDC recommends two doses of HPV vaccination for girls and boys beginning at ages 11 or 12, but vaccination can be started at age 9 and can be administered through age 26 for females and age 21 for males.

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 10.36.56 AMWhile oral health professionals should be recommending HPV vaccination to all age-eligible patients, it would be prudent to also provide that information to patients who are parents. Although my dentist is not a pediatric dentist, my five children are also patients and we all get our regularly scheduled dental cleanings twice each year. 

At no point has anyone at this particular dental practice ever discussed oral cancer or HPV with me or any of my children, despite the fact that all five of my children are  considered “age-eligible”. (I know this because after my appointment yesterday, I asked my kids.)

Yesterday, my dentist failed to discuss HPV vaccination as a potential way to prevent oral and oropharyngeal cancers, which I consider to be a missed opportunity. However, during our collective twelve appointments each year for the past five years, it’s actually more like 60 enormous missed opportunities!

I get it.  Dentists may not be comfortable discussing vaccines. Or HPV.  But how comfortable can it be for them to have to tell their patients they may have oral cancer? How comfortable can it be for those patients who will end up having to suffer through an oral cancer that may have been preventable?

Fortunately, there are tests that can help detect HPV in women before they develop cervical cancer.  However, the same is not true for HPV-related head and neck cancers. These cancers typically develop in the throat at the base of the tongue, in the folds of the tonsils or the back of the throat, making them very difficult to detect. That is why regular dental exams can be vital. But prevention is always preferred to treatment, and HPV vaccination represents our best chance at prevention. 

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Since my dentist didn’t provide the information I feel all parents and patients deserve to know, I plan to bring them this action guide for Dental Health Providers, created by the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable when I return next week for my daughter’s visit. 

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According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, there are over 100,000 dentists in the U.S., each one seeing between 8 and 15 patients per day. If you include those patients who come to a practice and see someone other than the dentist, such as the hygienist, the number of patient visits is significantly higher. If they each did their part to educate their patients, imagine what a huge difference they could make in boosting HPV vaccination rates and reducing oral cancers.

Until we start seeing more dentist taking these types of actions,  please help spread the word about the association between HPV and oral cancers, during Oral Cancer Awareness Month and all throughout the year.

Below you will find additional resources regarding HPV vaccination and HPV-related head and neck cancers.  Here’s hoping that you never have to deal with an oral cancer diagnosis, like Jason Mendelsohn, Scott Vetter, Frank Summers and others.   


 

 


 

 


Other Resources:

Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

Oral Cancer Foundation

National HPV Vaccination Roundtable

Vaccinate Your Family Website: HPV Information

Research Article: Reduced Prevalence of Oral Human Papillomavirus (HPV) 4 Years after Bivalent HPV Vaccination in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Costa Rica

 

 

Resolve To Protect Your Family From Cancer

January 9, 2018 1 comment

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By Shaundra L. Hall, Southwest Regional Director, National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC)

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and if you’ve resolved to make healthier choices in 2018, then ensuring your loved ones are vaccinated against the deadly strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) should be on the top of the “resolutions to keep” list.

Cancer prevention is a gift of health for your child’s, and grandchildren’s, future.  But it’s only a gift if given early in life.

My journey with HPV began at the age of 17.

My very first Pap smear exam had an abnormal result. Over the next several years, I would have some normal and some abnormal Paps, and it was eventually determined that my cervical dysplasia required medical treatment to remove abnormal cell tissue that might become cancerous. I went on to have multiple procedures over the years – a LEEP/cold knife cone, cryosurgery – you name it, I had it.  So many painful treatments chipping away precious tissue from my cervix.

ShaundraHall2Years later, after my husband and I were married and bought our first house together, we started thinking about starting a family. When pregnancy didn’t happen as quickly as we had hoped, I made a visit to my gynecologist’s office. Back in to the stirrups I go, and with one look heard “Ohhhh…

My heart sank.

Until we had started trying for a family, I’d had four years of completely normal Pap tests and I felt confident that I was healthy enough to get pregnant.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

During the course of about 10 months, some cancer switch turned on and I went from 4 years of a healthy cervix to invasive cervical cancer.  About fourteen days after my doctor’s appointment, I was in the hospital having a hysterectomy to save my life from a HPV related cancer.  Not only were my husband and I in our 20s trying to deal with the fact we would never have our own biological kids, but now we had the big “C” staring us in the face.  To say it was devastating is an understatement.

I wish I could say that I left all of that sadness from nearly 20 years ago behind me, but the reminders of my battle with HPV related cancer is with me every day. When I see my scar or when my legs, ankles and feet swell due to lymphedema from my missing abdominal lymph nodes, it’s clear that I can’t escape what the cancer has done to me. I think about it when I encourage my husband to keep each and every dental exam to ensure that he is not at risk for HPV related oropharyngeal or head and neck cancer.  My husband has been an amazing partner sticking with me through all of the intimacy challenges related to the physical modifications to my body, and I only wish we had the opportunity to be protected from HPV when we were younger. Read more…

Vaccines Can Not Only Prevent Cancer, But May Soon Be Able to Cure It

April 6, 2016 28 comments

HPV112315HPV is such a common virus that nearly all sexually active individuals will contract the virus at some point in their lives.

It’s estimated that 79 million people (about 1 in 4) are currently infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) and about 14 million people become newly infected each year in the U.S. alone.  Yet, there is no cure for HPV and in some cases the virus will develop into cancer years, or even decades, after initial exposure. This results in about 270,000 people who are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers in the U.S. each year to include cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus or throat.

While the CDC currently recommends that parents get their sons and daughters the HPV vaccine series between the ages of 11-12 to prevent future cases of HPV and HPV-related cancers, the reality is that many people are already infected and are spreading the virus to others.

Good News For Those Already Infected

Mayumi Nakagawa, M.D., Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is researching a new vaccine that is designed to cure HPV, cause pre-cancerous lesions to disappear, and provide future protection against HPV. Following the success of the vaccine’s phase I trials, Dr. Nakagawa is now continuing with stage II trials with the support of a $3.5 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over the next five years. Read more…

On World Cancer Day Remember Vaccines Help Prevent Certain Cancers

February 4, 2016 3 comments

Yes, it’s World Cancer Day, but did you know that vaccines are currently helping to prevent and treat various types of cancer?

See, some cancers are caused by viruses and right now there  two commonly recommended vaccines (HepB and HPV) that target the very viruses that cause certain cancers.  We call these preventive cancer vaccines and they are a first-line defense against many cancers.  

Hepatitis B (HepB) Vaccine:

HepB112315The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a leading cause of liver cancer.   People who have chronic (long-term) HBV infections are at higher risk for liver cancer.  Unfortunately, that’s about 1 in 20 people (or about 350 million individuals). In fact, the virus is believed to be responsible for 600,000 deaths worldwide each year.  That means every 50 seconds someone dies from this vaccine-preventable disease.  

The likelihood that a hepatitis B infection will become chronic depends upon the age at which a person becomes infected.  Statistics show that 80–90% of infants who are infected during the first year of life, go on to develop chronic infections which is why infants are recommended to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth.

Experts agree that the 3-shot HepB vaccine can provide lifelong protection against HBV and helping to prevent the most common cause of liver cancer.  The vaccine is not only proven safe, but is believed to be 95% effective at preventing HBV infection.  Furthermore, the vaccination series can be started at any age and does not require any boosters.  In fact, the vaccine is so effective at preventing HBV and liver cancer that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it the world’s first “anti-cancer  vaccine”.

To learn more about why it is so important for infants to get a birth dose of HepB vaccine, check out another Shot of Prevention blog, “Why Infants Should Receive the Hepatitis B Vaccine at Birth” here.  

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine:

HPV112315Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and is often referred to as the common cold of the genitals.  About 1 in 4 Americans are currently infected (that’s about 80 million Americans), roughly 14 million people become newly infected each year, and about half of these new infections will be among people ages 15-24.

HPV infections are not only highly prevalent, but they can also result in cancerous cells that can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus or oropharynx (which includes the head, neck, throat, mouth, tongue and tonsils). Read more…

HPV Epidemic – Someone You Love Film – Watch It, Share It!

July 16, 2015 1 comment
Every Child By Two is pleased to welcome Linn to our social media team. Linn is a student intern who will be sharing her perspectives on vaccines with us through the eyes of a PhD candidate.  We hope you enjoy her first piece of the summer.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and boys ages 11-12.

This vaccine has the potential to prevent 70% of all cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

Why then is there such a low rate of vaccine uptake?

Only about 1/3 of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated and less than 14% of boys are fully vaccinated.

One study looked to identify the barriers to uptake of HPV vaccine and found that it was not the lack of perceived risk or vaccine safety that kept parents from vaccinating their children, but the perception that it would increase risky sexual behavior in adolescents even though there is no evidence that this will occur.HPV

As a young student, I remember learning about the HPV vaccine in high school. HPV was a sexually transmitted disease that was relatively unknown, but we learned that the vaccine would prevent certain cancers and genital warts. The knowledge that I gained about the ability for this vaccine to prevent these potential diseases prompted me to learn more about the HPV vaccine and increased my desire to receive it.

However, when I discussed it with my mother, an interesting process began to occur. She did not know any information about the HPV vaccine and when I spoke to her about the fact that it prevents a sexually transmitted disease, I could see a shift in her gaze as she narrowed her eyes. I sensed that she was hesitant because of the social stigma that surrounded a female who would get a vaccine that was related to sexual contact.

All of these opinions are related to a negative stigma around sexual behaviors that are not true.  And yet these are the thoughts I sensed were running through my mother’s head as she also considered what her own peers would think, as I am sure many others do.

Back then I perceived that the assumptions that are made about females that get an STD vaccine were:

a) She is promiscuous.

b) She is about to become promiscuous.

c) She wants to be promiscuous.

At the time, I even remember having a discussion with a teacher about the HPV vaccine and her speaking about how she refused to give her child the HPV vaccine because “they should not be giving 11-12 girls a vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted disease”.   Now I understand that the 11-12 year old visit is the optimal visit, as it eliminates the connection of the vaccine with future sexual contact by integrating it within the routine vaccine schedule, which includes meningitis vaccines and a Tdap booster. In addition, I’ve learned that by waiting to provide the vaccine at a later date, many children fall through the cracks because they do not receive routine health care in their teen years. Read more…

Why Early HPV Vaccination is Beneficial

April 29, 2015 99 comments

Since the human papillomavirus (HPV) is transmitted from one person to another through sexual activity, many parents question why the CDC recommends the vaccine be administered to boys and girls as young as 11 or 12 years of age.  HPV vaccination is critical if we are to prevent the 27,000 cases of anal, mouth/throat, penile, cervicalvaginal, or vulvar cancers that are diagnosed each year in the U.S.  However, since some parents have difficulty acknowledging that their teenage children may be engaging in activity that puts them at risk of HPV, they’re often reluctant to vaccinate at the recommended age.

If you’re a parent who is questioning whether your preteen child should get the HPV vaccine, it’s important to realize the benefits of vaccinating at an early age.  

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The vaccine works best prior to exposure to the HPV virus.

The fact is that almost all sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives.  While most of these infections go undetected and may even clear up on their own, we know that one in four people in the U.S. are currently infected and that initial infection typically occurs in the teens or early 20s.

While most parents are hopeful that their teenagers will refrain from sexual activity until later in life, research tells us otherwise.  The data suggests that 5% of 12-year-olds, 10% of 13-year-olds and 20% of 14-year-olds are sexually active. And the likelihood of sex continues to escalate with each school grade level with 32% of 9th grade students to 62% of 12th grade students.  And since HPV can be transmitted through oral sex as well, it’s important to note that as many as 51% of 15-24 year-olds are having oral sex before they have their first sexual intercourse.

Since it’s entirely possible to get HPV the very first time that a person has sexual contact with another person, the question we must ask ourselves is why should we wait until a child is sexually active to offer vaccination? As we can see by the data, even a child as young as 12 years old can be at risk.  Even if a child should abstain from sex until marriage, there is no guarantee that their partner did the same, and they can still contract HPV that may one day lead to cancer.  However, if a child should complete the three dose series of HPV vaccination before they begin any type of sexual activity, then they’ll be better protected if they get exposed to the virus, at whatever age that may be.

The HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than it does in older teens and young women.

Read more…

Why Some Parents Are Refusing HPV Vaccine For Their Children

August 20, 2013 615 comments

Some of the data contained in this post has been updated.  For a more recent review of the prevalence of HPV infection and more current data on the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine, click here to read “Questioning Whether to Get Your Child The HPV Vaccine?  Read this“, published in January, 2016.  

This post is not the result of an official survey. Rather, it’s a collection of the most common explanations I’ve heard parents make when refusing HPV vaccine for their children, followed by points to consider.

REASON #1: My child is not/ will not/ should not be having sexual relations. So why would they need an HPV vaccine?

As a mother to five daughters I get it. Every parent wants to believe that their son or daughter will remain abstinent until marriage. And some may. But the reality is that some children, even as young as 12 and 13, are already involved in sexual relations and this reality is what has influenced the age at which the HPV vaccine is recommended.  Here is what the studies suggest:

The HPV vaccine is most effective when the complete three shot series is given long before any sexual activity begins, which is one reason the vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12. Additionally, the vaccine illicits a greater immune response and produces higher antibody to fight infection when given at this age, compared to receiving the vaccine at a later age.

Regardless of the when a child becomes sexually active, the HPV vaccine is important because the prevalence of HPV infection is staggering:

Some parents may be surprised to learn that sexual intercourse is not necessary for infection.  Oral-genital and hand-genital transmission of some genital HPV types is possible and has been reported.  Studies show that HPV was detected in 46% of females prior to first vaginal sex.  Based on this information, it’s possible that a person can become infected during their first sexual encounter. Even if someone remains abstinent until marriage, there’s no guarantee that the person they are marrying isn’t already infected.

Yet, some parents remain concerned that vaccinating a child for a sexually transmitted disease is like giving them permission to have sex. However, research indicates that HPV vaccination has had no notable difference in the markers of sexual activity, to include pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing and diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections. In other words, the vaccine does not appear to be changing sexual behaviors, only protecting those when they eventually engage in them.

The way I see it, most children by the age of 11 can understand that the HPV vaccine can protect them from various types of cancers, but not from pregnancy and STDs. It’s a simple matter of communication by which the parents can explain that the vaccine doesn’t equate to a free pass to have sex.  If a child chooses to refrain from sexual relations, I would venture to guess that it has more to do with their upbringing and strong moral character, than whether or not their parents choose to protect them with the HPV vaccine.

REASON #2: Won’t regular PAP smears detect any abnormalities and identify cervical cancer without the need for the vaccine? Read more…