Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Changes in Immunization Practices May Reduce Oral Cancer

Until now, the ACIP (Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices) has only approved the HPV vaccine for girls and young women through age 26. This despite the fact that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) itself approved the vaccine for use in boys and young men almost two years ago in 2009.

Since its approval in 2006, the Gardasil vaccine, originally approved only to prevent certain strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer and their precancerous lesions has been expanded to include vaginal and vulvar cancers and their precancerous lesions as well. Last year, they extended this to include anal cancer.

Until now, including boys and young men would not be cost effective given the low percentage of women who actually go on to complete the three shot series.
Now however there has been an explosion with respect to the number of oral cancers which are predominantly affecting males and which has overall exceeded the number of cervical cancers annually. Previously, smoking and alcohol were considered to be the major causes of oral cancers.

In the time period from 1984 to 1989, 16 percent of oral cancers were attributed to HPV. In comparison, in the time period of 2000 to 2004 the percentage of oral cancers related to HPV had increased to 75 percent and, it is known that the risk of oral cancer increases related to an increase in oral sex and kissing.

During the ACIP meeting of June 22, 2011, testimony was heard from Aimee Kreimer, PhD of the National Cancer Institute. She stated, "At some point ... it is projected that there will be the same incidence of OP cancer in men as cervical cancer in women, If current trends continue, OP cancer in men will pass cervical cancer in 2025."

Many abstinence groups are opposed to the vaccine claiming, like the distribution of condoms in the past, that it was the equivalent of approval to engage in sexual activities. That argument is becoming weaker when simply the act of kissing is considered a risk factor for oral HPV related cancers.

Dr. Dong Moon Shin of Emory University’s Winship Cancer Center stated, “The time is now. For the HPV vaccine, cost is the only issue as side effects are minimal. Routine HPV vaccination has to be implemented very soon, for both boys and girls."

Given the information to date, it is apparent that the sooner the ACIP includes in their recommendations that boys as well as girls receive the vaccine, the greater the impact on all HPV related cancers will be.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tips for a More Accurate Pap Test Result

Most women have undergone a mammography, perhaps more than once. I myself have never made an appointment without being given specific instructions on what not to do the day of the exam. Don’t use any perfume, powder or deodorant is what someone planning a mammography is typically told.

Most women however are not provided with some also simple instructions when it comes to getting a Pap smear. Whether or not you comply with these recommendations can make a difference in the outcome of your results. In fact, they can interfere with accurate results. Although there has been a 75% reduction in cervical cancer over the past decades, the majority of that decrease today is the result of early treatment for precancerous lesions thus preventing them from progressing to cancer. So following these instructions continues to be important when it comes to your health and obtaining the most accurate results possible.

According to Women’s Health, the following are instructions which all women should be provided when scheduling a visit which will include a Pap test:

1. Vaginal douches are not recommended for the three days prior to the
Pap test.
2. Do not have sexual intercourse two days before your Pap test.
3. Take showers instead of tub baths two days prior to the exam.
4. Tampons, vaginal creams or medications, contraceptive foams and
Jellies are not advised I the 48 hours preceding the Pap.
5. Schedule your Pap one to two weeks after your period.

I’ve been having Pap tests for decades and cannot ever remember being given this information. The recommendations make perfect sense when considering the purpose of the Pap and just what is removed during the test. Any unusual substances such as contraceptive products and those contained in douches can effect the environment surrounding the cervix itself thus preventing removal of the cells necessary to provide a more accurate result. This is true of any outside substance which would include seminal fluid which his why sexual intercourse is discouraged as well.

I hope that you have been provided with this information when you have scheduled your Pap test. If not, you now have the tips which will help you to receive the most accurate results possible, and when it comes to an exam used to detect cervical cancer, we of course want the most accurate results possible.