The Geaton and JoAnn DeCesaris Cancer Institute at Anne Arundel Medical Center is partnering with two leading area pediatric practices to help raise awareness, and educate parents and health care providers about the importance of the HPV vaccine as a form of cancer prevention.
About nine in 10 people will be exposed to HPV, or human papillomavirus, in their lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly all cases of cervical cancer can be linked to HPV. Experts say HPV also causes between 50 to 60 percent of cancers, including cervical cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancers, anal cancer, throat cancer and penile cancer.
“Despite the potential to drastically reduce the number of HPV-related cancers and other diseases, the HPV vaccine has not gained widespread use,” said Luqman Dad, MD, radiation oncologist at AAMC and chair of the medical center’s HPV vaccine taskforce. “We want to see that change because when HPV infections persist, people are at risk for cancer. Raising awareness about the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine is important to us as health care providers. We want parents to know that the HPV vaccine is cancer prevention, and vaccine benefits far outweigh the risks.”
“We are excited to join this group of experts to highlight the importance of HPV immunization for children in our community,” said Charles L. Parmele, MD, chief medical officer of Annapolis Pediatrics. “We understand there are many misconceptions about the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine. As pediatricians, this is a great opportunity for us to provide accurate information so parents can make the best decisions on behalf of their children today to reduce their risk of cancer in the future.”
The CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have studied the vaccine carefully and determined it is safe. The HPV vaccine has many of the same, mild side effects as other vaccines. The most common side effects reported after vaccination are minor and include pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the patient received the shot; fever; headache or feeling tired; and nausea.
“HPV vaccination is an integral part of preventing cancers in young women and men. It is important for families and primary care providers to have an early, open dialogue about the benefits of the HPV vaccine,” said Robert G. Graw, Jr., MD, chief executive officer and founder of the Pediatric Group and a pediatric oncologist at AAMC.
Doctors recommend that children get the vaccine before they become sexually active, which is when it is most effective.
Boys and girls who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Children who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose of HPV vaccine. If your child is older than 14 years, three shots will need to be given over 6 months. Visit askAAMC.org/HPVvaccine for more information.