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Public Group active 4 years, 9 months ago ago

A group for survivors. Tell your stories and discuss your plans.

Why is a cancer vaccine so hard to sell? (5 posts)

  • Profile picture of rick rick said 5 years, 9 months ago:

    Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known. ~Garrison Keillor

    Five years after implementation of a vaccine program (HPV vaccine)proven to prevent cervical cancer by 70%, less than one third of girls eligible for it actually got it. And I really struggle with this. Isn’t this what we wanted? Why would we not immunize our kids against a known cancer causing virus?

  • Profile picture of rick rick said 5 years, 9 months ago:

    July 20, 2006|By Richard M. Boulay, Special to The Morning Call – Freelance
    These are my sentiments published in the Morning Call 5 years ago.

    She’s Just a Little Girl
    The tears welled in Bethany’s 14-year-old eyes and flowed beyond her perfectly made up face onto the hospital linoleum. “I’m so sorry,” I apologized. “We’ve utililized the most aggressive forms of combination chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and radical surgery, but the tumors are bigger and causing your mother’s kidney and liver to fail. Your mom has elected no further treatment, and we expect that she will die of her cervical cancer within the next few weeks.”

    Bethany’s mom motioned for us to leave the room. “They need a little time alone to talk,” whispered Bethany’s aunt. We slowly filed out of the sterile hospital room, leaving an emaciated, bed bound, tired women to lead a discussion of opportunities lost and a lifetimes worth of hurried advice to a grief stricken daughter … just a little girl, really.

    As a gynecologic oncologist, a specialist in the treatment of women’s cancers, I have encountered this scenario too many times to count. Each is as painful as the last, leaving me with a library of mental images that keep me walking the floor in the early morning hours. I almost always conclude, “There but for the grace of God …” The most tormenting part is that many cancers, especially cancer of the cervix, are preventable.

    I recently attended a community education conference on cervical cancer and its prevention. The factual information included the standard statistics that we learned in our residency and fellowship training and that I now can repeat in my sleep: Of the 100 million pap smears performed annually in this country, about 5 million are “abnormal.” Only 10,000 cases of cervical cancers are diagnosed annually here, and only 4,000 women a year will die from the disease. At least 95 percent of cervical cancer is caused by very aggressive forms of the human papillomavirus. Last month, a well tested vaccine, Gardisil, directed against the aggressive forms of HPV, was unanimously approved by the FDA for girls and women aged 9-26, expressly for the prevention of cervical cancers and precancers.

    That conference was well-attended with about 50 well-educated women who peppered the experts with questions reflecting their hopes and fears about the new cancer vaccine.

    “I’m 50,” one inquired, “Might it still work for me?”

    “When do you think insurance may cover this?” asked a lady jotting notes into a steno pad.

    “What are the side effects, and when does it wear out … really?”

    “Will we still need pap smears if we get the vaccine?” asked someone. “Unfortunately, yes.”

    “I have a 12-year-old. Do you think she might become sexually active if she gets this vaccine, thinking it may protect her? When they’re teens, they think they are invincible. Right now, she’s just a little girl,” commented one mom.

    “I have two teenaged daughters who are sexually active,” confided another. “Are they gonna get cancer?”

    Here we go, I thought. The inextricable link between sexual activity and cervical cancer. The punishment of the fallen. The scarlet letter. The experts danced around the issue, saying that a sexually transmitted disease, not sex itself can result in an infection that usually doesn’t, but sometimes can, cause cervical cancer and its precancers. The questions continued but eventually came back to the embarassing link between sexual history and cervical cancer.

    I think I was a parent myself before I realized the delicate balance between protecting children from danger while instilling them with the desire for adventure and autonomy. The sexuality issue falls in the center of this dilemma. I need to protect my child from STDs and cervical cancer, yet she will ultimately decide when is the most appropriate time for her to become intimate and start a family. Is that truly a dilemma, or is there a common thread that unites the two apparently opposite ideas?

    I think that thread is education. We can both protect our kids and lead them to independence by simply teaching them the values that we parents cherish. Studies have not demonstrated an increase in sexual behavior in adolescents when interventions for the prevention of other STDs, such as Hepatitis B, are introduced. As we take the sexuality factor out of the equation, the path to follow becomes very clear.

    Protect your daughters with a series of simple and safe vaccines. You’ve already vaccinated them against measles, mumps and a host of others. Why should this be any different? How you choose to educate your child on sexuality is your business. The issues of sexuality and protection from cervical cancer are independent and are best kept that way.

    Bethany’s mom died the morning after their extended conversation. She gently passed on with her family at her hospital bedside. It was almost as though after her lucid discussion with her daughter, her life’s work was complete and she was ready to pass. I’m sure gentle reassurances were made to watch over Bethany and to guide her from beyond during difficult times. I’m also sure that this closeness and sharing wisdom began Bethany’s long healing process, but nothing can ever replace your mom. Especially when you are just a little girl.

    Richard M. Boulay, M.D., of Allentown is a board certified gynecologic oncologist, practicing at Lehigh Valley Health Nework.

  • Profile picture of lisa m lisa m said 5 years, 4 months ago:

    I have a question about the vaccine-I just read a book about another vaccine and it mentions that an adjucvant(spelling?) used is Squalene and that it causes all sorts of problems and illnesses(lupus for one) and that this substance is also used in the vac. for cervical cancer. Can you shed any light on this ? I also think that until we know FOR SURE that vaccines don’t cause things like autism (I know parents of autistic children who believe the condition is vac related) that it will remain a tough choice. Personally,I too feel my daughter too young for vac. It is not needed now. Maybe when she goes off to college it will be considered and then we will make the decision together.

  • Profile picture of lisa m lisa m said 5 years, 4 months ago:

    Where can I get unbiased information on the safety of the vaccine?

  • Profile picture of lisa m lisa m said 5 years, 4 months ago:

    last night i saw five minutes of some show w/ a whack-a doddle doctor talking about vaccines and her belief in a conspiracy……. she mentioned squalene . The book i read was from an award winning journalist and he seemed to be in the know as far as squalene being used . so………?????