HPV vaccine a decade later shows drastic drop in infection and cancer rates, doctors say it could get better

HPV vaccine progress

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s been 12 years since the HPV vaccine has been on the market. Its effectiveness has been documented through shrinking infection rates, but physicians say the numbers could be better if everyone were to get vaccinated.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 80 percent of sexually active Americans will have an HPV infection at some point in their life. Most HPV infections will go away on their own, but some HPV infections could lead to cancers in men and women like cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer, anal cancer, head, neck and throat cancers.

“Realistically no one should ever die from cervical cancer in the future,” Dr. Jubilee Brown, Professor of Gynecological Oncology for Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute said.

Since the HPV vaccine became available, the numbers of HPV infections and HPV-caused cancers have dropped.

According to the CDC, HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have decreased by 86 percent among teen girls. In vaccinated women, the CDC reports a 40 percent decrease in cervical precancers caused by HPV.

Despite the improvements and advancements, the CDC says only five out of ten teens are up to date on the HPV vaccination.

“Which is really a crime. That’s just so sad because cervical cancer and the other cancers: vaginal cancer, penile cancer, anal cancer, even head and neck cancers those are cancers that can be eliminated with this HPV vaccine,” Dr. Jubilee Brown said.

She says misinformation spread online about vaccines could be the cause, despite the HPV vaccine having minimal side effects.

“The only side effects that people have from this vaccine are redness at the injection site and some pain at the injection site. That’s it,” Dr. Brown said.

Dr. Brown sees patients who have already been diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV. At that point, she says, it’s too late.

“If you’ve ever seen someone who is dying of cervical cancer it’s horrific,” Dr. Brown said. “If you meet one person who’s ever had cervical cancer you will do anything to vaccinate your children, your friends, yourself.”

Males and females ages 9 to 45 years old are recommended to get the HPV vaccine. Patients who are uninsured or underinsured could qualify for financial help to get vaccines. The CDC has more information here: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/parents/qa-detailed.html

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