The role of “men” in preventing HPV related cervical cancer!


(Photo Credit Gardasil)

This blog was originally posted on CHATpdx.org as a program of CHATpdx For more information check out: Our Facebook Page

In the US, it’s estimated that a majority (75%-80%) of men and women will be infected with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). With about 6 million new cases of genital HPV every year (there are over 30 genital HPV types) and a majority of these (about 74%) of them occurring in 15-24 year olds, the need for effective prevention programs directed to youth is crucial. The new HPV vaccines protect against the two types of HPV that cause a majority of cervical cancer and genital warts cases.  These vaccines, however, are only effective if they are taken BEFORE someone is infected with HPV. HPV often has no signs or symptoms and partners engaging in sex (or any other kind of genital contact) may be transmitting HPV without even knowing they have it. Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended HPV vaccination for girls 11-26 and have stated that Gardasil can also be given to boys ages 9-26. In women HPV can cause serious health problems including genital warts, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. These cancers can cause death or infertility in women. Men on the other hand usually only develop genital warts. While this is a small percentage of men that could develop HPV-related cancer of the anus or penis, it is much less common.

Subsequently, I believe that men have a pretty important role to play in the prevention of HPV. Likelihood of developing cervical cancer is greatly reduced if the vaccine is used. Unfortunately, it is too common for women (particularly women of color) to have barriers to screening services or accessing this vaccine because of the stigma around accessing sexual health services. This reality makes it even more important for men to seek the vaccine and to encourage the women in their lives (particularly the ones they are having sex with) to also receive the vaccine. I have encouraged many of the women in my life to get the vaccine whether or not they have been sexually active or think they are at risk. Men have the same responsibility to help prevent HPV even if they do not suffer the same consequences as women.  As allies, men can play an important role in helping to reduce HPV transmission. It’s time that men stand in solidarity with our friends, sisters and mothers by encouraging them to seek pap smears as part of a well-women’s annual checkup as well as the HPV vaccine.

(Photo Credit http://www.gardasil.com/hpv)

Speaking of mothers, my own mama had such a hard time talking about her own health growing up. I remember her waiting for us to leave for school before she would call our neighbor to talk about a yeast infection she once had. This kind of taboo, to not even want to say the word “Vagina” like it was some sort of dirty word only reinforced my ideas as a kid that we weren’t supposed to talk about our bits and pieces. I was lucky to even get a pack of condoms on my nightstand when she thought I was having sex with a note that said “no seas guey” (don’t be dumb). Growing up in an undocumented Latino family we never dreamed of going to the hospital unless our arm had actually fallen off, yet alone to receive preventative care. Our fear of getting deported was much worse than the fear of cervical cancer. Growing up I’ve had to learn to talk about sex and sexual health in a way that resonates with my mother and with my siblings. At times it can be hard, but for the women in my family, I knew it would be the only way I could convince them to talk to a doctor and get the care they needed. They may roll their eyes or not want to talk about it, but I care about the health of the vaginas in my family, just like all men should care about the vaginas in theirs.

What do you see as the role of men and boys? How can you advocate for the health of women in your life?

-Ernesto

edominguez@cascadeaids.org

8 thoughts on “The role of “men” in preventing HPV related cervical cancer!

  1. Pingback: Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz

  2. Pingback: WeMustChange » Blog Archive » The Role of “Men” in Preventing HPV-Related Cervical Cancer

  3. Small point, but Gardasil protects against 4 types (HPV16,18,6,11).
    Men have an additional reason to be part of the solution: HPV associated head and neck cancers are increasing.
    I don’t think vaccine has been shown to decrease that, yet, but it is plausible.
    And yes, you should get vaxed even if that wasn’t true.

    Another option is to never have contact with other people’s genitalia – but that’s asking allot.

  4. You are very correct. I just checked my source and found that Gardasil does protect against 4 types (HPV16,18,6,11), including the two HPV types that cause the majority of cervical cancer cases.

    • That is very expensive. I know for most people that would not even be an option. I am sorry that you have these barriers to get the HPV vaccine. What country do you live in? I would love to hear about how other countries handle health. Since CHATpdx is located in the USA, it would be cool for us to hear more about your experience.

      -Ernesto

  5. Hi there,

    You said: “Likelihood of developing cervical cancer is greatly reduced if the vaccine is used.”

    However an article in Discover Magazine disputes the science behind your statement.

    There is no evidence to suggest that Gardasil is effective at preventing either Genital Warts or Anal Cancer in boys.

    Merck’s study of HPV vaccine efficacy in males published in the New England Journal of Medicine states that Gardasil is 89% effective against genital warts and 75% effective against anal cancer.

    Given the fact that there are approximately 300 annual deaths from of anal/rectal cancer among men in the United States, one wonders how Merck was able to prove such a huge reduction in such a rare problem.

    As with the female group, external lesions substituted for actual cancer with no proof that lesions of that type actually lead to cancer at all.

    Yet, Merck’s statistics regarding their cancer substitute penile/perianal/perineal intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) listed in their appendix to the article show that in men who did not have HPV prior to vaccination, both the vaccinated group and the placebo group had the same number of these types of lesions, making the observed efficacy of Gardasil minus 98%!

    Reference:

    Lenzer J, Should Boys be Given the HPV Vaccine? The Science is Weaker than the Marketing, Discover Magazine, November 14, 2011.

    • Thanks for your comments. The arguments you make are very valid. Although the reduction may be 89%, 75% or even 1%, the fact that this reduction is a bonus to boys while also reducing a large amount of HPV infections in women. Either way I would still stress boys/men receiving the vaccine to protect the women in our lives.

      thanks again for your comment and I hope to read more from you soon.

      -Ernesto

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s