Facing the real Issue
Of all the viruses out there waiting to attack us, perhaps none could strike more fear among us, women, especially, than those that infect our most private areas – the vulnerable, physical parts so inherent to our idea of femininity. Perhaps, no one knows how many sleepless nights can be laid by the doorstep of a woman diagnosed of cervical cancer, the second leading cancer killer.
Now, a vaccine has been made available to help us prevent this killer cancer caused almost exclusively by the sexually transmitted virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV). This new approach to tackling cancer is exciting because it prevents the disease from developing instead of destroying it through chemotherapy or radiation treatments after it is detected. But in the midst of all these exhilaration surrounding our medical breakthrough, some uncomfortable issues are being raised.
Misconceptions about the disease
It’s easy to understand why a lot of people hold so many confusions about HPV. After all, public awareness of the virus is still extremely low at this point. As a matter of fact, according to some Obstetricians most HPV infected patients never even heard of HPV until they were diagnosed.
Those struggling with this troubling condition or strange new diagnosis rarely discuss it with others, since they feel it would seem unlikely that others would understand. Not knowing these ‘others’—likewise feel constrained to keep silent about their HPV, thinking that we wouldn’t understand.
Unlike Breast Cancer, Cervical Cancer is not hereditary. And unlike contagious diseases like polio, chickenpox or tuberculosis, cervical cancer and genital warts are mainly a result of personal, lifestyle decisions. It may start early on in life (pre-adolescent stage), and progresses without us knowing; until it has reached its later stage- the stage when it may already be too late to be prevented or even treated. According to an Obstetrician, in its early stages, cancer of the cervix does not produce any symptoms. Later stages cause vaginal bleeding (often painless), vaginal discharge, pain in the pelvic area and pain during intercourse.
We are in the information technology era and it is just ridiculous to allow ourselves fall victim of our own ignorance. Since early recognition is one of the two keys to the prevention of cervical cancer (the other key is to get vaccinated), we, women should make screening part of our health protocol.An OB-Gynecologist says that a woman should go for her first test at least three years after she begins having sex or by age 18 (whichever comes first). A yearly pap smear is recommended for at least three years, and if you’ve had three “normal” ones, that is, no problems were found, you can start going for a pap smear at least every three years. An Ob-Gyne may recommend going for a test more often if you have one or more of the predisposing factors: you have given birth more than once, you started having sex early, you have had multiple sex partners, or your partner has had many sexual partner, you have used birth control pills for 5 or more years, you smoke, and you have genital warts. If a woman has external genital warts, whether it seems malignant or benign, she should get medical attention at once.
Needless to say, I advise all women (and men) to get up on your feet and become vigilant about this health issue. There is no longer an excuse for us to be caught off-guard of an easily preventable disease like cervical cancer. The least you could do is tell your loved ones about this.
The estimated cost of the vaccine ranging from P15,300.00 to 21,000.00, is said to have become prohibitive for the middle-income group. Let me reiterate, it is CERVICAL CANCER we are talking about here, and the breakthough vaccine Gardasil being the first and only vaccine worldwide to prevent cancer as well as other diseases such as vaginal and vulvar cancers and genital warts caused by HPV
The vaccine is administered as a series of three injections intramuscularly over six months. One shot starts from (an average of) Php6,000.00. That means complete dosage comes at a minimum price of Php18,000.00 (Let us not forget the doctor’s consultation and administration fees which may vary). But one important point raised by OB-Gynecologist- Dr. Efren Domingo is that “the vaccine is still less costly than the average Php500,000.00 total cost of cervical cancer treatment.”It’s a matter of choice. No member of any family can put a price on emotional burden (of seeing someone in pain).
I have come across one vigorous argument between two mothers on whether or not to give their 9 year old daughters our latest breakthrough vaccine- Gardasil. The issue of their debate, however, boils down to the risk of “opening the younger generations’ doors to promiscuity.”
In a perfect world, children would all wait until after marriage and then make decision on whether or not to get pregnant. It would be ideal if people had one sexual partner for their entire lives, the world however, does not function on such a nice and ideal situation. This is not a perfect world. People are bound to obey all traffic laws yet they do not, and as such, we have accidents. People have sex; it is as much a part of people’s existence as breathing and eating. Teaching your children to wait for marriage is great, anyone would encourage that! But not allowing your children to be protected because it would be an admission that they are going to make their own decisions in life would be absolutely absurd.
The vaccine is not a birth control, nor is it a free pass to a promiscuous lifestyle (be reminded that there are still a lot of STDs one can catch from living a promiscuous life); the vaccine will protect your daughter from one of the cruelest killers of all cancers. You, as parents, are held responsible to protect your daughter from such dreadful disease, just as you are responsible to make your children wear seat belts in cars, and helmets on their bikes. Nobody would want their children to crash their bikes because they went too fast. And letting them hit their heads because they need to learn a lesson—is not what makes parents great.
The choice should be left up to you, parents. As you weigh the pros and cons of deciding about the shot, in my earnest opinion there should be only one main factor to consider—that it will prevent your little girls from getting cervical cancer, and your little boys as well from any possible complication of HPV. As responsible parents, you must let your children- daughters especially, to become aware of the entire picture of getting the HPV infection that leads to cervical cancer (what it is, how it is acquired, and what are its consequences), whether through casual conversation, community education, their own lifestyles, mother-daughter program, books, chastity talks, whatever it takes. And most importantly… have them vaccinated!
I am all for the vaccine and hope that all who make the decision to have it or not, weigh the options and not the kind of thinking- that the vaccine may promote early adolescent sex- that is just absurd. And, if again asked whether price really is an issue? It’s all a matter of prioritization. More important is for us to recognize the entire picture of HPV and Cervical Cancer. Protect your future! Now is the time. Many will seize the day many will live to the fullest. Why not you or your loved ones? Give the vaccine a shot.
[Disclaimer: Originally published in March 2008, under vyjae.com. PLease note that there maybe a price difference in the cost of the vaccine from the time this was written to the date it was re-posted]