Feb 25, 2015 10:00 AM

Author: Cancer Learning Center

If you have heard of the human papillomavirus (HPV), you may already know it can cause cervical cancer in women. HPV can cause other cancers that affect both men and women: cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.

As a cancer nurse with experience treating HPV-related cancers, it concerns me that Utah has a low rate of HPV vaccination. In fact, Utah ranks lowest in the nation for completion of the vaccination series.  The HPV vaccine is approved for both boys and girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years get vaccinated. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26 if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.

Both my teenage boys have been vaccinated. I encourage you to vaccinate the teens in your life. This vaccination can prevent months of painful surgery and chemotherapy needed to treat cancer. Because HPV is often spread through sexual contact, it can be a sensitive subject. But talking about HPV risk is important. I am not embarrassed to talk about the vaccine; I am embarrassed that we are failing to protect our teens. The National Institutes of Health has made HPV vaccination a priority for cancer prevention. Utah’s goal should be completion of the full three-dose series by all eligible adolescents.

Jennifer Kelley RN, OCN, MSN

Cancer Learning Center

Huntsman Cancer Institute

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