Cervical Cancer/HPV Conference Tackles Controversial Vaccine Issues
National Cervical Cancer Coalition unites women in joining the fight for education and early detection and prevention of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer
More than 80 women and men gathered at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in the heart of Washington, D.C. to attend the First Annual Cervical Cancer/HPV Conference, conducted by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC). During the two-day conference, controversial issues such as nationally mandating the cervical cancer vaccine for young women were tackled, as well as the discussion of debunking the stigma associated with HPV, a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). The conference marks the first time women with HPV and cervical cancer gathered together in the United States to discuss the disease, treatments and prevention.
Perhaps one of the most important prevention topics discussed during the conference was presented by Juan C. Felix, M.D., professor of pathology and obstetrics and gynecology, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, in regards to the new HPV vaccines. When attendees were asked during the beginning of the conference whether or not they would support a national mandate for all girls entering middle school to get the HPV vaccine, a little more than 42 percent could agree. After listening to Dr. Felix, and receiving all the facts and information, the NCCC took a second vote using a real-time computerized voting system and discovered more than 70 percent now advocated mandating the vaccine for girls between the ages of 9 and 13,as long as there was an "opt-out" offered to parents with objections. Of course, the attendees stressed that getting screened and having their routine PAP test, when coupled with an HPV test, is still the most effective early detection method available to women.
Additional HPV facts presented during the conference came from Heidi Bauer, M.D. MPH, California Department of Public Health and of the California STD/HIV Prevention Training center included:
- Currently, there are more than 20 million people infected with a genital HPV infection in the U.S.
- There are 6.2 million new HPV infections annually, with more than 80 percent of people (men and women) acquiring the infection at some point in their lives
- Sixty percent of girls will contract the HPV infection by the time they are 16 years of age or within 4 years of sexual debut.
- Of the girls infected, 2/3 will clear the infection within 2 years without intervention, although 10 percent will not be able to clear infection at all and will go on to develop high-risk HPV or cervical cancer
- HPV is considered the "common cold" of STIs
- Strains 16 and 18 account for more than 70 percent of HPV infections
- Type 16 is responsible for more than half of all cervical cancers, which Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (Merck) are designed to specifically target
Attending the conference were women, their families and friends from across the United States, all of whom have been affected in some way by HPV and/or cervical cancer, whether survivors or those seeking additional information. The main goal for the conference was to educate these women and provide them with the tools and information they need to become advocates for HPV and cervical cancer prevention within their own communities.
Inspiring a sisterhood among attendees, the women also focused on the stigma attached to having this specific type of cancer, especially since it is related to a sexually transmitted infection. Many women were made to feel shamed or dirty when they were diagnosed with HPV, even though it is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Many women addressed the fact that when they received their diagnosis of cervical cancer, they had never even heard of HPV or were aware it caused cancer.
"Having cervical cancer does make others assume the worst about you. The fact that the average person who is HPV positive has only had 2.1 sexual partners shows this is can happen to anyone," said Shawna Dickey, a 33-year- old survivor of adenocarcinoma from Packwood, Iowa, who attended the conference. "The lack of awareness as to how many people have contracted HPV at some time in their life shows how little the public is informed. So many people have it and don't even realize they are carriers."
In the United States, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related death in women between 20 and 39 years old. More than 14,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and more than 3,900 women will die from this devastating disease. In developing nations, cervical cancer remains the number-one cause of cancer related deaths, with an estimated 493,000 cervical cancer cases being diagnosed each year, accounting for more than 85 percent of new diagnosis. Of those 493,000 cases, an estimated 273,500 women will die from this preventable disease.
Proud to be celebrating its 10 year anniversary, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) is the nation's oldest non-profit organization exclusively focused on working with women and family members and friends that are battling issues related to cervical cancer and HPV. To directly support these initiatives, the NCCC launched an online cervical cancer/HPV site at http://cervicalcancer.clinicahealth.com, as well as created cervical cancer quilts that travel the nation to help place a personal face on the battle against cervical cancer.