*This post is made possible with support from the American Cancer Society. All opinions are my own*
As parents, we always want to make the right choices for our kids, keep them healthy, and keep them safe. We are constantly questioning whether we are doing the right thing, or if we are messing up our kids.
I think it is safe to say that we are all doing the best that we can. One of the biggest decisions that we make as parents, for our kids, is whether or not to vaccinate; this is a hot topic that sometimes creates big feelings. Still, I want to take the time to discuss something with all of you—the HPV vaccine.
The HPV vaccine is an adolescent vaccine for Human Papillomavirus; a virus that can cause six types of cancer later in life. As such, the American Cancer Society is recommending our sons and daughters should receive the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 and 12.
There is so much information out there about this vaccine, and before I get into some of it, I want to start by addressing the elephant in the room. I am sure that most of us have heard the claim that the HPV vaccine can cause sterility or infertility in those that have received the vaccination doses. I reached out to the American Cancer Society to get a little bit of information and see if there were any resources or studies that can help address that.
They kindly got back to me and provided me with this resource: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7255493/
In short, the following was discovered: “There is no evidence to suggest that getting the HPV vaccine will affect future fertility. However, women who develop an HPV precancer or cancer could require treatment that would limit their ability to have children.” I would encourage each of you, especially those that are having reservations because of this particular claim, to read the article and study. However, I would like to remind you that the HPV vaccine does help prevent 6 types of cancer, and is 90% effective in preventing cervical cancer.
Now, I live in Texas, and in this state, only 43.5% of kids receive the vaccine. Texas ranks 39th out of 50 states for HPV vaccine rates among children ages 13 to 17, and I think that a lot of that has to do with fear of the unknown, so let me tell you a little bit more about the HPV vaccine.
Let’s start with some facts about how this vaccine helps our girls:
HPV infections and cervical precancers (abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cancer) have dropped significantly since the vaccine has been in use.
- Among teen girls, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 86%.
- Among young adult women, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 71%.
- Among vaccinated women, the percentage of cervical precancers caused by the HPV types most often linked to cervical cancer has dropped by 40%.
Now, how does this vaccine help our boys?:
According to the CDC, men are 5 times more likely than women to develop HPV-attributable oropharyngeal cancer (oral). Recent studies have shown that 70% of oropharyngeal cancers may be HPV related. Research has also shown that there is an increase in oral cancers among men, and it is set to become more prevalent than cervical cancer.
Thankfully, this vaccine is effective in protecting against six (6) types of cancer: cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, penile, and throat. This vaccine is constantly being studied and has been for the last 12 years. More than 270 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given worldwide, including 100 million doses in the U.S. The results continue to show that the HPV vaccine is very safe, effective, and provides long-lasting protection.
I know how scary it can be to think about our children developing cancer as adults. I also know how scary it can be to watch our children have adverse reactions to things. I have three children that rely on my intuition to keep them safe, and my only son has autism—something he was born with—so I am very diligent in making sure I know what is going into my child’s body. Because with the MTHFR gene mutation, his body reacts to things differently. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from discussing this vaccine and others with his pediatrician and his vast team of health providers.
I would encourage each of you to do the same with your child’s doctor. Start by saying, “I know the HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls 9 – 12 years old. I’d like to get this vaccine for my child, do you have more information?” Additionally, you can look over this resource for more information on talking to your doctor about this vaccine: https://bit.ly/HPVTexas
There is a lot of great information there, as well as stories from survivors of the types of cancers that the HPV vaccine is effective in preventing. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for vaccine information. Do your research—this is, after all, your child’s health and life, and we all want to be as informed as possible going into any situation.
We might not be able to cure cancer, but maybe we can stop it from rearing its ugly head by being proactive instead of reactive.