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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cebu-based cancer center urges proper education on HPV vaccines

Many women are still unaware about the connection of Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections and the development of cervical cancer, let alone HPV vaccination. This according to Mr. Ronald de los Reyes, the program coordinator of the Cebu-based Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (EJACC) of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI). HPV is the same virus that causes genital warts by the way.

Importance of education

I agree with Mr. Reyes. The perception of some is that cancers are not caused by infectious organisms. In reality, there are viruses that are associated with cancers and HPV is one of them. We need to educate people regarding this especially that cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among Cebu's women according to EJACC's Metro Cebu Population-based Cancer Registry. To note, in 2003-2007, there are 162 deaths out of the 311 cervical cancer cases recorded.

“By educating women, we are helping them overcome their reservations on issues related to cervical cancer. Public education and awareness requires multi-sectoral support from policy makers, healthcare professionals, and the general public to successfully introduce HPV vaccines,” he explained.

“Since HPV vaccine is a relatively new concept, many Filipinos are unfamiliar that there are two HPV vaccines in the market that are classified as preventive measures against cervical cancer. We need to make it clear that HPV vaccines can only prevent and not treat HPV infections,” Delos Reyes said.

The HPV vaccines

Approved by the Philippine Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) last 2006, quadrivalent and bivalent vaccines prevent HPV type infections. Both vaccines protect against initial infections of HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most of the HPV-associated cancer cases. Quadrivalent vaccine also protects against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause ninety percent of genital warts.

Vaccine recommendations

To be most effective, HPV vaccines should be given before a person has any type of sexual debut, when HPV infection risk is at its lowest. The recommendation is to get vaccinated between the ages of 9 and 27. Pregnant women should not get the vaccine. “Women who are sexually active may also benefit from vaccination, but they may get less benefit. This is because they may have already been exposed to one or more of HPV types targeted by the vaccines,” Delos Reyes said.

He added that the cost of the cost of the vaccines puts it out of reach of many women. Currently, the three doses (via injection) of the vaccine cost a total of Php 6,000. The vaccine is given in three shots over a six-month period (day 1, month 2, and month 6). Another challenge is the accessibility of the vaccines.

He said that the vaccine is a cost-effective answer to the plea for women to fight cervical
cancer. The vaccination for each patient should always be determined by a doctor, he stressed

“If we will look at it, the HPV vaccine is a lifetime opportunity. The cost of the vaccination is less compared to the burdens of medical expenses caused by HPV diseases or infections that might come in the long run. Many people could even spend thousands of pesos for gadgets that become out-dated over time, so why not spend on HPV vaccination?” Delos Reyes stressed.

Worldwide, cervical cancer death toll remains high. He lamented that women only come for treatment when the disease has reached a critical stage.

“Women should do in all possible preventive measures that could possibly lower the risks of cervical cancer,” he said. He added that it is important for adult women to still get cervical cancer screening even if they have completed the HPV vaccine series. Other preventive measures include regular
cervical screening (pap smear) annually or as advised by the obstetrician-gynecologist, and HPV testing.

He also said that vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection against cancer but it can help women prevent cervical cancer before it starts to grow. “The development of HPV infections is due to risky sexual practices that include having sex at an early age and having multiple sexual partners of both men and women,” he said.

Original article courtesy of Chrisley Ann Hinayas of RAFI.


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