Did you know that in the Philippines, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Filipino women, next to breast cancer? Studies and research now shows that Human Papillomavirus or HPV infection is one of the major causes of cervical cancer.
With the availability of cervical cancer screening tests for early treatment or prevention, more than 6,000 Filipinas are still diagnosed with it every year. Within five years from diagnosis, more than half of those women will die and despite HPV vaccination available in the market since 2006, less than 5 percent of eligible Filipina women have availed it.
This has long been a worldwide healthcare concern not only in the Philippines alone, still not many people know the link between HPV infection is now the cause of cervical cancer.
This year the Department of Health (DOH) has already made an initiative to have a national immunization program of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in schools to protect young girls against the disease. Through the support from multi-stakeholder groups DOH’s goal is to vaccinate 720,000 young girls this year. From 20 provinces, the scope of the expanded program now spans 56 provinces and cities across the country.
Why it matters
To learn more about the disease and what we can do to prevent it, a roundtable discussion was held at Shangri-La The Fort entitled, “Bridging HPV and Cancer: Why it Matters.” Medical practitioners specializing in HPV studies present during the event are Dr. F. Xavier Bosch, Senior Consultant to the Cancer Epidemiology Research Program (CERP) at Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) Information Centre in Spain and Dr. Sybil Bravo, Obstetrician-Gynecologist Infectious Diseases Specialist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines – College of Medicine and Philippine General Hospital.
Both Bosch and Bravo emphasized the need for continued multi-sector collaboration to help achieve an HPV-free future, create awareness on the threat posed by HPV and the significance of cervical cancer screening and immunization.
HPV: A Transmitted Disease
Dr. Bosch explains that HPV infection is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse, but any kind of genital contact, even if it’s just the skin of the genital of an infected person, can result in transmission. It can also be spread from mother to child at birth.
Regular check-up is the most recommended by the doctors, a Pap test can detect these abnormal cells in your cervix that are likely caused by HPV. Possible symptoms should you have HPV are anal bleeding, changes in color/thickness of the skin of your vulva, lump or mass in your neck, pain, itching, changes in color or thickness of the skin of your penis or weight loss.
Cervical cancer equals HPV! Prevention is the cure
A recently published by the ICO Information Centre as indicated in their “Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases Report”, wrote that HPV causes virtually 100 percent of cervical cancer cases.
Today, we have vaccine that can prevent the spread of HPV infection. The quadrivalent HPV vaccine used by the DOH in its immunization program is available in more than 130 countries globally, with many countries also utilizing this as part of their national immunization programs. It covers HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18.
The other two types of HPV vaccines are the bivalent vaccine, which covers HPV types 16 and 18, and the nonavalent HPV vaccine which covers nine HPV types, including the 7 most common high-risk types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58 and the 2 most common genital warts-causing types 6 and 11.
The average person’s lifetime risk of contracting HPV is 75 to 80 percent. Worldwide, there are approximately 527,624 new cases of cervical cancer reported every year; 7,200 new cases of anal cancer; and 1,800 new cases of penile cancer.
Dr. Bosch highlighted the need to focus on HPV strains that local epidemiology is able to show, in order to address these appropriately with vaccination – the primary means of prevention that is readily available.
To learn more about HPV, visit www.helpfighthpv.com.
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