Prevent Cancer with a Vaccine

If you could prevent your father from getting lung cancer, would you?

If you could guarantee that your brother not get bone cancer, would you? If you could keep your mother healthy and free from breast cancer, would you do it? The answer is most certainly yes to all the above.

You can prevent with nearly 100% certainty that your daughter not get cervical cancer, that your son not get penile cancer or throat cancer or anal cancer – so why do you say no to Gardasil for prevention of HPV?

HPV is a virus that is spread from person to person via sexual activity. It is extremely common. Not everyone who has HPV will test positive – it can take over a decade for infections to be found and sometimes not diagnosed until a routine pap test (a test which screens for cervical cancer in women) or until cancer is found in men.

Vaccine misinformation strikes again and parental hesitancy takes hold. The human papillomavirus is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical, oral, penile, and anal cancers. This virus, commonly referred to as HPV, is preventable. Yet, data from the National Immunization Survey for Teens found that only 48.4 percent of teens in Texas are full vaccinated to protect them from HPV.

When presented with cringe-worthy statistics like this, I do what any good pro-vaccinator does and I took to the World Wide Web to uncover some of the common misconceptions about the HPV vaccine – Gardasil – to help dissect the myths and expose the truth of this life-saving stick in the arm.


Photo by Istock IQoncept

MYTH: Gardasil leads to increased sexual activity for teens.

FACT: Just like vaccinating against the flu doesn’t increase the number of people I regularly sneeze on, Gardasil will not make your teens have more sex. Teenagers are not less likely to have sex because of their fear of HPV either. So you’re not protecting them from anything or keeping them from doing anything by choosing not to vaccinate. The only thing you’re accomplishing is promoting is the spread of a cancer-causing virus.

MYTH: Just vaccinate the girls and leave my sons out of this!

FACT: The truth is both boys and girls are going to spread the virus back and forth. They virus lives in all genders and can cause cancer in all genders. Someday your son may want to have a physical relationship with another person – protect your son and the other person by vaccinating. Protect your daughters, too (from the other person whose parent’s didn’t vaccinate them … ahem).

MYTH: The HPV vaccine was rushed and is not safe.

FACT: No, it wasn’t. It took over a decade to develop the HPV vaccine. It’s been around for nearly 20 years. It’s safe, but like many other vaccines it may cause some discomfort immediately after – chief compliant is a really sore arm (Still better than cancer!). Your child’s medical provider is the best person to determine safety of a specific vaccine for your child (they literally went to school for it). Trust the science and trust your provider.

MYTH: The vaccine causes infertility in women.

FACT: Not even a little bit. If fact, what can actually impact fertility is cervical cancer caused by HPV. Abnormal cervical cells are removed through freezing or burning them away – this can weaken or damage the cervix making successful pregnancy more difficult. If left untreated, cancer can also spread to other areas of the reproductive system. The treatment of cervical cancer can impact a woman’s ability to get pregnant – preventing cervical cancer cannot impact fertility.

MYTH: The vaccine doesn’t prevent all strains of HPV.

FACT: This is true – but not all strains cause cancer. The vaccine prevents against the 9 cancer-causing strains. That’s good enough for me!

MYTH: My children are too young to receive the vaccine! They’re not even having sex yet.

FACT: The truth is kiddos are having sex at pretty young ages. Vaccination begins around age 11 to ensure that children receive both doses before any chance of becoming sexually active. Unfortunately, if a person contracts one of the 9 cancer-causing strains of HPV before vaccination, the vaccine will not protect them. It’s best to get the kids vaccinated fully BEFORE any chance of sexual activity – it’s not going to hurt them.

MYTH: HPV is not common and only sexually promiscuous people get it.

FACT: Most people – like nearly everyone – will have HPV at some point in their lives. It’s very common and most people get it and spread it. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world with over 14 million new infections each year in the US alone. Currently over 80 million Americans have HVP. The odds of a sexually active person getting HPV is almost guaranteed.

Anecdotally speaking, I practice what I preach. I am fully vaccinated against HPV and received my first dose long ago when the vaccine was new – so I can attest to its early safety. I also have three little boys (no impact to fertility here!) and they will also get vaccinated against HPV to protect them and their future partners.

Vaccination is not just something we do for ourselves or our children. We do it for our communities. Our actions (or inactions) have consequences and we should all do what is socially and ethically the right thing to do.

Don’t wait – Vaccinate.

Blog Author: Erin Cox- Practice Manager

Main Blog Photo By: IStock whyframestudio