Saturday, November 23, 2019

HPV shots might save thousands of lives

Vaccines, screenings, treatments could severely cut deaths from cervical cancer, N.Y. Times says

Cervical cancer last year killed more than 311,000 women, one every two minutes, but early detection might have prevented thousands of those deaths around the world.

Such detection, it's believed, could have resulted in expanded screenings and treatments.

In addition, an increase in HPV vaccinations for teenage girls may have helped a great deal.

At least those are the conclusion drawn by Mia Armstrong in a recent story in The New York Times. 

Dr. Kirsten Austad
Armstrong quotes Dr. Kirsten Austad, director of women's health for the Maya Health Alliance, as saying, "Almost no one needs to die of cervical cancer."

Of the more than 300,000 annual deaths from cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer for women globally, the Times piece notes, more than 85 percent were in low- and middle-income countries.

The story also mentions a World Health Organization estimate of 570,000 new cases in 2018, the same year that Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, "called for coordinated global action" to eliminate the disease.

Armstrong cites, too, the words of Dr. Silvia de Sanjosé, director of women's cancer for PATH, a nonprofit focused on global health, to the effect that such a coordinated effort "was crucial to elevating the issue," which had previously received little attention.

"I would not say that that's enough," she said, the story continues. "But it's clearly a turning point." 

She also told the Times about a couple of big challenges: The vaccine needs to be given after age nine, which is later than most routine vaccines, and the price tag, which in the lowest-income countries costs approximately $4.50, jumps to $150 in some places.

WHO recommends that 9- to 14-year-old girls receive two does of the [HPV vaccine, which protects] against HPV infections responsible for 70 to 90 percent of cervical cancers."

The difficulty is, however, that, according to the story, WHO estimates indicate that "only around 25 percent of 10-year-olds live in counties that have introduced the HPV vaccine."

Other calls to action about diseases can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his wife's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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