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When Disease is Preventable

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It is never easy to lose someone to death, even if you have been prepared for it in advance. Having lost one parent quickly to a heart attack and another parent to a long-term cancer I have experienced both.

The ones that I believe are the hardest to endure are the ones that are preventable.

In addition, there is a difference between being able to prevent something and never having known that there was anything that you could do to prevent it. This is what happens to hundreds of thousands of women across the world each year -- those who have never heard the words "human papillomavirus".

While a significant number of these women live in third-world countries with little if any medical care or screening, women living in well-developed countries with well-developed screening schedules such as the United States, shouldn’t become too comfortable. On average, one woman dies every two minutes from cervical cancer.

This country overcame significant death rates and disabilities from diseases such as smallpox, polio, mumps, and measles in its earlier years through the use of one major agenda -- vaccination. There was a time, however, when children were not allowed out to play for fear they might contract one of these conditions.

Eventually a child’s entrance into school became contingent upon proving that the child had received certain vaccinations in order to protect the overall welfare of its children.

We still continue this today and have added such diseases as Hepatitis B and Meningitis however there is one vaccination which, while recommended, is not contingent upon school admission -- HPV.

HPV, unlike these other diseases are considered sexually transmitted as opposed to through general human contact (coughing, sneezing) so it is not necessary for school admission.

But HPV has been found in the saliva (as is hepatitis B) and as a parent I have often seen children share a can of soda or boys a bottle of Gatorade. Someone obviously needs to interject some common sense into the development of these policies.

Unfortunately, earlier this month we lost a very brave woman, mother and HPV advocate who put up a valiant fight against cervical cancer from the HPV virus. Michele Baldwin was only 45.

The travesty in all of this, is that cancer from HPV is preventable and many women are not aware of this. They are not even aware that a vaccine exists and has since 2006.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which is responsible for the health of the citizens of this nation, have done an extremely poor job of educating the public about HPV and the vaccine, and of encouraging those who can receive the vaccine to receive the three-shot series.

According to its own statistics, teenage girls between the ages of 13-17 (only 33 percent of teenage girls) have received all three shots, which is vital for adequate protection.

This leaves roughly 67 percent of 13 to 17 year olds ending up at some point in the future just like Michele, with incurable cervical cancer, if they do not go on to receive the vaccine.

We must all take responsibility when it comes to HPV. We are being sorely let down by those who should be informing us of the cancers which are caused by HPV and which are preventable through vaccination.

This is not limited to cervical cancer but includes vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer, head/neck cancer, and penile cancer.

We must each make it our own personal responsibility to inform others of the six cancers which HPV can cause. We cannot confine people’s understanding of HPV to cervical cancer alone.

Encourage others to speak with their doctor about vaccination of not only themselves and their significant others but also their children, if they have them.

The word cancer has always evoked a negative and concerned response, as it should. The other word which we must all pass along is what these cancers from HPV are -- preventable!


"CDC - HPV-Associated Cancers Statistics." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.

"CDC - HPV Vaccine for Human Papillomavirus - Preteen-Teen-Adolescent - Vaccines." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/vaccines/hpv.html

"CDC Media Relations - Press Release: August 25, 2011." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.

"State Mandates on Immunization and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases." Immunization Action Coalition (IAC): Vaccine Information for Health Care Professionals. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. http://www.immunize.org/laws

"Cervical Cancer Statistics." Cervical Cancer: Information about Diagnosis and Treatment of Cervical Cancer and a Focus on HPV. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. http://www.cervicalcancer.org/statistics.html

Reviewed February 22, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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February 22, 2012 - 8:29pm

Thank you so much for sharing this article, Bonnie. I lost my older sister to cervical cancer and am very familiar with the difficult emotions that come along with knowing that the disease might have been prevented if caught early on. I am thrilled to see EmpowHER helping to raise awareness of HPV prevention and screening!

February 22, 2012 - 4:02pm
(reply to hkenney)

Thank you for your comments. I have dealt with HPV for 25 years and in addition to being an international speaker am a freelance writer as well. I have been an HPV advocate for some years and you may wish to visit my website: thehpvsupportnetwork.org and blog along with other social network links for Facebook and Twitter.
I'm sorry to hear about your sister and hope that you yourself have chosen to get vaccinated against this virus. Best wishes. Bonnie

February 22, 2012 - 8:39pm
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