January 07, 2016
Kansas has a distinction which is costing people their lives.
We rank last – we might say dead last – of all states in getting teens vaccinated for the HPV virus, which causes cervical cancer in women, plus head and neck cancers among many cancers in men and women. With January recognized as Cervical Cancer Month, it is a good time to review the facts and take steps to improve vaccination rates in our state.
Most men and women in this country will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives, with many never knowing they are infected until it is too late. The vaccine is designed for people ages 9 to 26, but many pediatricians believe the optimal time to get the vaccine is at ages 11 or 12.
One problem is people think the HPV vaccine is about sex because sex is a common method of transmission, but it's far from the only method. The HPV vaccine is not about sex; it’s about preventing cancer. The vaccine is up to 93 percent effective when given at the optimal time. It works and it’s safe! The vaccine has not been linked with any serious or long term side effects, and studies clearly show the vaccine does not make kids more likely to have sex or to have sex at a younger age.
Nearly 27,000 people in the country get HPV-caused cancers and face surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. There are 328 new HPV-caused cancers every year just in Kansas. This has led to millions of concerned parents across the country bringing their children in for vaccination.
But in spite of the facts, in Kansas, only 40 percent of females and 25 percent of males get the vaccine. We need your help. Please ask those that you care about: “If there was a vaccine against cancer, wouldn’t you get it for your kids?” Remind them there is a vaccine and to call a local physician or health department to find out where to get the vaccine in their area.
Kids 11 to 12 get other vaccines at that stage in life. They get vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and meningitis. This should be just another shot, one that will give Kansas families peace of mind years into the future.
On behalf of our future generation of Kansans, we urge you to get the HPV vaccine for your kids.
Roy Jensen, MD
Director, The University of Kansas Cancer Center
Terry Tsue, MD
Physician-in-Chief, The University of Kansas Cancer Center