In 2013, Gary Tanner was diagnosed with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) related throat cancer. Since then, he has had his voice box removed, undergone chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and lives in constant fear of cancer. Both he and his wife are aware that Tanner’s lifespan has been significantly reduced due to his diagnosis.
Adamant that no one else should suffer from an easily preventable disease such as HPV, Tanner told the BBC:
“There are vaccines available to prevent to protect people against this. I think they should be used on all available members of the public.”
His preventative warning lies in the HPV vaccine.FlickrCC/Pan American Health Organization
Daily Mail reports:
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually-transmitted disease in the US, with approximately 80 million people currently infected.
With a disease so widespread across the country and the world, one would assume that people would do everything in their power to dodge it. Unfortunately, this is not the case, initially due to the packaging of the treatment.
Women and young girls were the initial target in 2006 when the vaccination was first approved, as the virus was declared a cause of cervical cancer. Women were meant to bear the brunt of the disease, and thus the HPV vaccine was marketed solely to one gender.
Consequently, the vaccine was feminized.FlickrCC/Pan American Health Organization
According to University of South Florida researcher Ellen M. Daley and her colleagues:
Feminization [of the disease] has the potential to negatively impact public awareness[…] HPV is sexually transmitted, implying contact with another person. […] Feminization of HPV reinforces the long-held belief that women are responsible for reproductive healthcare in heterosexual partnerships. Concomitantly, it assigns the stigma and blame toward women as both the host and transmitting agent of HPV.
As a result, both genders suffer because of this feminization of HPV, according to Science Direct:
[F]emales are burdened with the screening and treatment of HPV-related diseases, while males both fail to obtain the primary prevention they need, and accurately perceive their risk for infection and disease.
Despite the misconception that men are immune to HPV-related illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that every year in the U.S., 11,000 men contract cancers caused by HPV, including penile and anal cancers. Both genders are vulnerable to HPV-induced throat cancer.
“I could never really understand why we weren’t vaccinating boys[.] I’d be much happier knowing all the boys’ friends were equally protected. I wouldn’t want to be seeing one of their friends in my surgery in a few years time [with cancer] because they hadn’t been vaccinated.”
Unlike cervical cancer, there is no screening test available for these male genital cancers, so if they are eventually discovered, it is often too late.
The vaccine works as a preventative measure. As a result, the CDC recommends parents vaccinate their children before they become sexually active. In fact, preteens are the targeted demographic for the first injection.
Forward thinking is essential when it comes to HPV. The vaccine requires three separate visits spread out over six months. So even if your child isn’t planning on being sexually active for another decade, you can rest easy at night knowing that when they are eventually ready, they are protected from at least one potentially life-threatening disease.
According to the CDC, there is no link between the vaccine and reported chronic illnesses. However, as Dr. Peter English wrote for Metro:
It’s easy to understand how they or their families might blame the vaccine. When an illness is unusual and poorly understood it can be particularly difficult to know what actually caused it.
So educate yourself, and recognize that, according to Dr. English:
Without vaccination, most people pick up an HPV infection soon after they start to have sex. Many will clear the viruses harmlessly, but in a proportion they will persist, and can go on to cause cervical cancer.
Anyone can contract a possibly life-threatening illness derived from HPV.
For more information visit HPV.com to get the facts.