Of all girls born today, about one in 142 will be diagnosed with cervical cancer at some point in their life … in Missouri, that’s about 240 people.
The Missouri Department of Health says Missouri is ranked 14th nationwide for new cases of cervical cancer, the majority of which is caused by contracting Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV.
Health Department Nurse Susan Kneeskern says it’s recommended children are vaccinated before they become sexually active. The department recommends starting the three-dose series from age nine to 11 or 12.
The vaccine’s been around for a couple of years for girls, but has just recently been approved for boys as well to help prevent the spread of HPV.
Kneeskern acknowleges it’s controversial since some parents believe vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease is essencially condoning unprotected sex.
She says we need to take a realistic approach to protecting our children against disease and do what’s best for them, noting that we vaccinate very early against Hepatitis B, which can be sexually transmitted.
She says the vaccine can be administerd to females up to age 26, but those who are sexually active could get less benefit from it since they might have already gotten one or more types of HPV type targeted by the vaccine. (There are more than 30; there is currently no test available to tell whether one or more strains has already been contracted.)
“The vaccine is there for prevention, it’s not a cure or going to clear up an existing infection,” Kneeskern says.
HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women.
“It’s pretty common,” Kneeskern says. “It’s the most common sexually transmitted disease or infection, there are a lot of risks to having the infection. In females, it can lead to cancer or pre-cancerous lesions; for males, genital warts.”
“The goal is to reduce their likelyhood of getting genital warts,” Kneeskern says. “Of course the males pass the disease onto females. It’s beneficial for them to have the vaccine to clear the disease so they wouldn’t pass it on and it should occur before sexual contact begins.”
She says the Health Department is working to promote more provider based vaccinations, but parents can check with their local health departments, local provider offices, obstetricians and gynocologists and family practicioners.
For more information on the vaccine, visit http://www.dhss.mo.gov/CancerinMissouri/CervicalCancer.pdf