The Daily Iowan
BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 29, 2011 7:20 AM
Controversy continually surrounds the prospect of administering vaccines to America’s youth. Recent efforts to combat the human papillomavirus, and ultimately cervical cancer, through vaccination have only fueled such debates. But in the case of cervical cancer, only one method is statistically proven to prevent the disease, and it’s 100 percent safe: regular Pap smears.
Before vaccination, doctors should be mandated to provide such information to patients and parents, as well as disclose the known risks and actual benefits of Gardasil and Cervarix, the vaccines most commonly used.
HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease. There are an estimated 6 million new cases diagnosed each year. According to the American Social Health Administration, 80 percent of sexually active people — those who have had sex even once — will contract the virus over the course of their lives.
Fortunately, HPV is effectively harmless and is not accompanied by any symptoms in the vast majority of cases. Most who test positive will then test negative after six to 12 months. However, though most cases of HPV are nothing to worry about, some are very serious — every instance of cervical cancer is caused by some form of HPV.
By the end of 2011, approximately 12,000 people will have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 4,000 will die because of it. The deaths due to cervical cancer make up 18 percent of deaths from gynecologic cancers and 2 percent of all cancer deaths in women, according to data from the Oral Cancer Foundation.
If the numbers are consistent with one another, there is a 0.436 percent chance a woman diagnosed with HPV will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the future — a figure too high to continue without initiating preventive measures.
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