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Turning the Corner with HPV

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In this month's Vogue magazine, Ayelet Waldman, noted author and wife of Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, described her conversation with her children’s pediatrician regarding the HPV vaccination.

She states that during the visit, the doctor questioned whether or not she wanted her 11-year-old daughter vaccinated against HPV. He asked with “trepidation” as if he were “mustering his arguments in favor of the vaccine.” I’m sure he was just as shocked to hear her answer, “Yes and my son too, as soon as he is old enough."

In my recent Empowher article titled, “Is Anyone Listening When it comes to HPV Vaccines?” I spoke about the fact that despite this country having waged a “war on cancer” and have now found a vaccine which can potentially protect against six of them, that we take issue with it because the causative agent is sexually transmitted?

Some movies or TV shows will play out scenes in which teenagers are shown getting all disgusted at the thought of their parents having sex. The same is true when it comes to parent's thoughts of their children having sex but in a slightly different way.

Waldman pointed out yet again, as I have been doing for years now and made explicitly clear in my book “Any Mother’s Daughter”, that this is not a sex issue. This is a health issue. She reiterated the relationship to vaccines received during infancy, something I had commented on in my EmpowHer article of October 26, 2011, saying that:

“Parents typically do not wage major campaigns against childhood vaccines such as polio or measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) like they do against the HPV vaccine and those vaccines are being given to infants who are far more vulnerable to such negative effects than the 11- or 12-year-old girls (and now boys) to whom the HPV vaccine is recommended.”

In the Vogue interview, Ayelet Waldman went on to say that, "The good news is that Pap smears have reduced cervical cancer deaths by as much as 99 percent." She also mentioned there are 40 strains of HPV in total.

Unfortunately Pap smears have not reduced cervical cancer cases by 99 percent as she stated. I wish it were so. Actually, since their inception in the 1950s they have decreased the incidence of cervical cancer by greater than 60 percent.

There are indeed 40 strains of HPV, but those are only the ones which affect the genital tract. Not all of them are high risk. One major thing we need to do is get our facts straight, in addition to dispelling the myths surrounding this virus.

Just as with Alexa Ray Joel last month, I am glad to hear celebrities and writers (other than myself) come out and speak about HPV. However, one major thing left out in her article was where people could go to educate themselves regarding this epidemic whose name now graces the cover of Vogue.

For starters, they can take the recommendation of the Nobel Prize winner (for his discovery that HPV causes cervical cancer) and the endorsement of Professor Harald zur Hausen, MD, and read “Any Mother’s Daughter – One Woman’s Lifelong Struggle with HPV”.

Not only is it his recommendation that anyone wishing education on HPV should read the book, but also that physicians themselves needing a refresher on the subject should read it as well.


"Cancer Advances In Focus: Cervical Cancer - National Cancer Institute." Comprehensive Cancer Information - National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.

"Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines - National Cancer Institute." Comprehensive Cancer Information - National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.

Reviewed December 6, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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