Mayo Clinic Minute: HPV Vaccine Prevents Cancer
How to Eliminate HPV Cancers: Experts Meet in Salt Lake City to Discuss
HPV Vaccination Low in Utah and Nearby States
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center human papillomavirus vaccination meeting that took place June 7 and 8, 2019, was the first of its kind in the western United States.
"We are thrilled with this opportunity, especially because our region has such low rates of HPV vaccination,” says Deanna Kepka, PhD, assistant professor at the college of nursing at Utah University and an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. “We've just been a little slower to adopt and fully integrate the HPV vaccine into our primary care settings in Utah and some other nearby Mountain West states."
A few years ago, Huntsman received a supplement grant from the NCI to improve its work in HPV vaccination. The grant allowed the institute to launch a national consortium of cancer centers working together to improve HPV vaccination education efforts and research.
"There have been four previous meetings held with cancer centers trying to learn from each other to improve our efforts on understanding barriers and facilitators to vaccinations in our regions to building partnerships with health departments, primary care providers, community organizations, and American Cancer Society offices that are located within our state," says Dr. Kepka.
HPV Experts and Cancer Survivors Can Help Bring About Change
As the top HPV expert in Utah, Kepka designed the Salt Lake City meeting, which had more than 200 people from 35 states in attendance, including physicians, nurses, scientists, advocates, health educators, and HPV cancer survivors. Additionally, more than 25 cancer center representatives took part.
"We have some of the world's experts on HPV, including Anna Giuliano, PhD, who is on the board of directors for the International Papillomavirus Society [in Tampa, Florida]. She [talked] about the eradication of HPV-related cancers around the world," Kepka says.
Other topics covered at the two-day conference included ways to improve implementing vaccination, HPV vaccination challenges experienced in rural communities, cervical cancer treatments, and real-life experiences from cervical cancer survivors.
"By learning from HPV survivors, we can motivate people on the importance of this vaccine," Kepka says. "Most people will get HPV infection at some point in their life, but it’s most often symptomless, and we often clear it without even knowing we have it. This isn't an issue about those people; it's about ‘us people.’"
Evidence-Based Practices Exist; The Key Is to Use Them
Kepka believes that helping the medical community understand how to best implement the vaccine so that people are motivated to get it can save lives by preventing cancers and precancers.
The vaccine can also help guard against the 400,000 cases of genital warts that occur each year in the United States, Kepka notes.
"This meeting is just one way we continue to work together within our regions and across our regions with a multidisciplinary partnership to continue to implement evidence-based practices that we know work," she says.
For instance, when physicians and the healthcare team make a strong case to group the HPV vaccine with other vaccinations that are recommended at 11 and 12 years old, Kepka says, parents are willing to accept the vaccine for their kids.
HPV Vaccine ‘An Amazing Gift’ for Children
According the CDC’s 2019 National Immunization Survey — Teen, in 2019, 60 percent of teens between 13 and 17 had received at least one dose of HPV vaccine, a 4 percent increase from 2015. But only 43 percent had received the full recommended HPV vaccine series.
The vaccine is administered in two or three doses, depending on a person’s age and circumstances. The vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during the preteen years than later on, so younger children get the same protection with fewer doses.
"We have this amazing gift we can give our children; we can protect them from HPV-related cancers, and we need to follow through with that gift and give them the benefit of living free from HPV related precancers, cancers, and genital warts in their adult years," Kepka says.
The ultimate goal, she adds, is to eliminate HPV cancers in the United States.
"We're confident that we are on the right path," Kepka says.
Video: The changing epidemiology of HPV and cervical cancer
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