Did you know that HPV-related cancers are becoming more common, in both men and women? Experts at the Wendt Regional Cancer Center are seeing this trend. The 2019 Cancer in Iowa report states that roughly 6,400 Iowans will die from cancer in 2019, and the annual report states just about 18,000 new cancers will be diagnosed in Iowa residents this year alone. The number of cancers that are related to HPV are on the rise, and HPV vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent oropharyngeal cancers today, such as throat, tongue and tonsil cancers. However, Iowans have been slow to adopt the vaccination that helps prevent this virus and cancer.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a group of viruses that have different high and low risk types of disease, one of them being cancer. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted virus that is spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who already has the infection. Since HPV does not always cause symptoms, people can have the virus and not know it. Most people, about 9 out of 10, will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives. Usually the virus goes away on its own but in some cases, the infection can progress to cervical cancer and other less common cancers of the genitals and back of the throat. Your best protection against this viral infection is through the Gardasil-9 vaccine. On October 5, 2018 the US Food and Drug Administration expanded the age limits of this cancer-preventing vaccine and now men and women from ages 9 to 45 are eligible to receive it.
Children ages 9 through 14 should receive two doses of this vaccine about 6 months a part. Men and women ages 14 through 45 should receive 3 doses of the vaccine. The HPV vaccine should be given to women and men through the age of 45 and require 3 doses. If you are under 45 and have not received your vaccine, it’s not too late. Getting vaccinated is a great way to help protect against cancers related to HPV.
Usually you do not see any signs or symptoms from HPV until it develops into warts or cancer. The best way to know if you have HPV is to visit your primary care provider. If you do not have one, call UnityPoint Health at 563-557-2940 to find a doctor that can help you or request an appointment online.
UnityPoint Health also provides a Head and Neck Cancer Support Group to anyone who is facing a head and neck cancer diagnosis. If you have any further questions, please visit unitypoint.org/dubuque or contact your primary care provider’s team.