“A conversation about HPV vaccination isn’t difficult. A difficult conversation is one I have nearly every week — when I have to look a young woman in the eye and tell her she may no longer be able to have children — or even worse, that she may die from cervical cancer. That’s a difficult conversation.”
— Daron Ferris, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, to Larry K. Pickering, M.D. in a Commentary in Pediatrics.
Last week, the CDC reported that vaccine coverage rates against HPV (human papillomavirus) among adolescent girls did not rise — the first year since 2006 that an increase was not observed. Dr. Pickering points to one reason why more girls (and boys) are not getting the recommended three doses of HPV vaccine, and exhorts pediatricians to get with the program:
Research indicates that pediatricians anticipate a “difficult” conversation when talking with parents of an 11- or 12-year-old about the HPV vaccine because it may involve a discussion of sexual issues.
However, this does not need to be the case. Research shows that HPV vaccine acceptance, like any childhood or adolescent vaccine, is influenced predominantly by your strong recommendation. This means not just suggesting that parents consider HPV vaccine, or mentioning casually that it’s available, but presenting the vaccine with the conviction and urgency that it deserves — that HPV vaccine will prevent several types of cancer, and this prevention should begin today.
Approximately 79 million persons in the United States are infected with HPV, and approximately 14 million will become newly infected each year. Some HPV types can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer among women; penile cancer among men; and anal and some oropharyngeal cancers among both men and women. Other HPV types can cause genital warts among both sexes. Each year in the United States, an estimated 26,200 new cancers attributable to HPV occur: 17,400 among females (of which 10,300 are cervical cancer) and 8,800 among males (of which 6,700 are oropharyngeal cancers).
Pediatric Alliance pediatricians Dr. Joe Aracri and Dr. Bill Coppula are quoted in an article which appeared in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlighting the importance of HPV vaccine. You can read their thoughts here.
Read the AAP’s evidence-based recommendations for HPV vaccine in girls and boys here.