Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It's not everyday that researchers create a vaccine that can wipe out cancer. But according to doctors, we have one.
They say if every boy and girl in our country got the HPV vaccine before they became sexually active, we could virtually wipe out cervical cancer.
Local 6 talked with an area doctor and a young woman with cervical cancer about why this vaccine is so important.
We see the commercials for Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that prevents cervical cancer, all the time but just how many young girls are actually getting the vaccine? Local OB-GYN Susan Mueller said not enough.
"We're actually seeing very little utilization of the vaccination," she said. "In fact, new starts for young adolescents, we can only get 30 percent, or one in three."
Part of the problem is cost, about $125 per shot and it takes three, but there's also reluctance because HPV, the human papilloma virus, is transmitted sexually.
"Some parents think if you have the conversation with 11 or 12 year olds, we're promoting sex," Mueller said.
That's disheartening to Angela Birney, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer earlier this year.
"The only reason I have cervical cancer is cause I have HPV," she said. "98 percent of cervical cancer is HPV."
The hpv vaccine wasn't available to Birney when she was growing up, so she was never vaccinated. But because her doctor tested her for HPV every time she came for her yearly physical, it may have saved her life.
Mueller said women should know an HPV test is more accurate than a pap smear for detecting cancer. In fact, all of Birney's paps came back normal even though she had cervical cancer.
"Fortunately, for me it was caught early but if Dr. Mueller had not done the HPV test, it would have been at least a year before it was known I had cervical cancer," Birney said.
She did not have to have chemotherapy or radiation but will have to have a hysterectomy.
"Because it could come back," she said of the reason. "The cells are still abnormal."
That is why she said parents should listen to those public service announcements. HPV isn't just about life or death. It's about being able to have children.
"As a parent, if I had a daughter, she would absolutely have the shot," she said.
Birney has two little boys and was finished having children, so she said her hysterectomy isn't as heartbreaking as it could be for other young women.
If you're thinking about signing yourself or your teen up for the vaccine, here are some things the FDA says you should know.
Girls and women ages 9 through 27 should get the HPV vaccine.
The FDA also says boys should get the vaccine, because even though they don't get cervical cancer, they spread the disease around.
Women over 30 should be tested for the HPV virus in conjunction with their yearly visit to the gynecologist.