What you should know about HPV and cancer

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What you should know about HPV and cancer

Wellness programs, diets, detox, organic food, homeopathic therapies and tons of exercise; people would do just about anything to be in pink of health. In fact, some would even spend on a variety of expensive health regimens and nutrition specialists on top of regular medical check-ups just to help keep serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes at bay.

The growing fascination with “Get healthy, quick” programs is not surprising given the alarming figures that were reported by Cancer Today, the research facility of the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer. Cancer Today reported 14.1 million new cancer cases worldwide in 2012. It also recorded 8.2 million mortalities and 32.6 million people who were living with cancer.

The Big C

Cancer is the unrestrained growth of abnormal cells in the body. It also refers to 200 related diseases that affect the body in the same manner, with only about a third of the cancer types considered curable only if they’re detected and treated early. In all kinds of cancer, the body’s cells divide continuously and spread to surrounding tissues.

Despite these distressing numbers, people wary of the disease have renewed hope since a study done by the Philippine Cancer Society in 2015 on “Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates” stated that at least one third of all cancers can be prevented. These preventive measures include “having a healthy lifestyle that started in childhood, eating a healthy diet, maintaining physical fitness and minimizing or properly coping with stress may decrease the risk cancer, and even coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes.” Individuals should also avoid cancer promoting agents like cigarette smoke, high alcohol consumption, Betelquid chewing and excessive sun exposure or ultraviolet rays. Aside from adopting a healthier lifestyle, it also stressed that certain cancer-causing diseases such as Human papilloma virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B virus could be prevented through vaccinations.

A virus that causes cancer

Certain viruses like HPV can potentially lead to cancer in the body. In fact, about 12 high-risk HPV-strains have been identified as the root cause of a variety of cancers. These include head and neck cancers such as oropharyngeal cancer, base of tongue cancer, and tonsil cancer; and anogenital cancers, which include vulvar, penile, and anal cancers; and the most prevalent of them all, cervical cancer.

HPV may lead to cervical cancer

Unknown to many, HPV-associated cervical cancer is now the second leading cause of female cancer and cancer-related deaths in the Philippines. It is also the second most common cancer in women ages 15 to 44 years old. About 6,670 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually while 2,832 related deaths are recorded each year. On a daily basis, around 12 Filipino women die because of cervical cancer. Most patients were also diagnosed late and sought treatment in the latter stages of the disease.

The numbers look even more grim worldwide. Since HPV is common, cervical cancer is ranked as the 4thleading female cancer and cancer-related deaths globally with about 527,624 women diagnosed with it each year.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The other HPV-associated cancers like oropharyngeal, tonsil, base of tongue, vulvar, penile, and anal cancers have devastating effects as well.

The scary truth about HPV is that it is so common that 70-80% all men and women will get at least one HPV-type at some point of their lives. Most who are infected probably wouldn’t even know they had it14. They could be silent carriers of HPV. Although 80% of HPV can be flushed out by the body, some of those affected will not be able to clear the virus.

The good news

To date, there are vaccines that helpyou guard yourself and your family from the destructive effects of HPV. Even children as young as nine years old can now be protected against critical illnesses associated with HPV. Parents can explore several options when it comes to HPV vaccines. These include a bivalent or a vaccine that covers two strains; a quadrivalent, which is a vaccine that protects individuals from four strains; and a nonavalent vaccine that guards against nine HPV strains.

Through the help of these vaccines, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, it is hoped that the numbers of those affected by the HPV virus and its related cancers will soon dwindle. To learn more about how you can guard your youngster and your family against HPV, consult your doctor. ZH

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