Thursday, March 01, 2007

Cure cancer with a single shot?!? 1 in 4 infected?!? ACK ACK ACK!

The Big HPV Hoo Ha (and that's no euphemism for vagina)

I want to know why every time I hear about the HPV vaccine it is always related to cancer, just that: cancer. As if there is only one cancer; as if this vaccine is efficacious for all cancers.

Is "cervix" kind of like "scrotum" as in "word non grata?"

Can we not say "cervix" or "cervical" aloud, lest we start thinking of you know, Private Parts?

Okay maybe it's just a TV-censored word.

However, I think the delicate language and euphemisms can confuse people.

Let me be clear since newscasters are unable to be, and experts also seem unable to be.

HPV is:

* a DNA virus

* spread via contact

* the most likely transmission is via SEXUAL INTERCOURSE (sex)


* infects men and women

* has been around for a long, long time

* has over a hundred strains

* has not been proven to be the causal factor in CERVICAL cancer

* only two types have been related (which is an entirely different words than CAUSES) at all to CERVICAL cancer

* only two types have been related to GENITAL warts

* Peter Duesberg and Jody Schwartz (molecular biologists, University of California at Berkeley) state that it is carcinogens not a virus that causes the abnormal cell proliferation:

Among the various issues they raised about the acceptance of HPV as the cause of cervical cancer was their fundamental concern that there was a lack of consistent HPV DNA sequences and consistent HPV gene expression in tumors that were HPV-positive.
They instead suggested that "rare spontaneous or chemically induced chromosome abnormalities which are consistently observed in HPV DNA-negative and positive cervical cancers induce cervical cancer."

* The US National Cancer Institute concurs, saying that direct causation has not been proven. In a controlled study of age-matched women, 67% of those with cervical cancer and 43% of those without were found to be HPV-positive. These cancers are observed on average only 20-50 years after infection.

Cervical cancer:

* affects 3.3 per 100,000 women in the Uunited States

* The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2007, about 11,150 cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States.

* About 3,670 women will die from cervical cancer in the United States during 2007.

* Between 1955 and 1992, the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States dropped by 74%. The main reason for this change is the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find early cancer in its most curable stage.

* Half of women diagnosed with this cancer are between the ages of 35 and 55.

* The 5-year relative survival rate for the earliest stage of invasive cervical cancer is 92%.

* HPV does not completely explain what causes cervical cancer. Most women with HPV don’t get cervical cancer, and certain other risk factors influence which women exposed to HPV are more likely to develop cervical cancer (such as smoking and immune deficiencies).

(Source: American Cancer Society)

The vaccine, Gardasil:

* is a three-shot series for $360, typically covered by medical insurance (assuming you have any) (it would come out of my pocket)

* protects against HPV types 6 and 11 (genital warts) and 16 and 18 (cervical cell changes)

* uses aluminum, which, due to adjuvants, can enter the brain, as well as cause inflammation at the injection site leading to chronic joint and muscle pain and fatigue:

Around 60 percent of those who got Gardasil or the aluminum placebo suffered side effects such as headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, myalgia and the Gardasil recipients had more serious adverse events such as headache, gastroenteritis, appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, asthma, bronchospasm and arthritis.
(source: AHRP)

* has potential competition from Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline) which targets types 16 and 18

(I think this is why you hear conflicting information about the vaccine targeting two or four types of HPV.)

The other vaccine, Cervarix:

* is effective 100% for 4.0 to 4.5 years.

* targets HPV types 16 and 18 (cervical cell changes)

Some important points to ponder:

* HPV types 16 and 18 are only related to about 70% of cervical cancers. Any vaccine you get will not prevent you from getting cancer. You might still get cancer, and it might be cervical cancer.

* The vaccines do not protect for a lifetime.

* Most people with healthy immune systems never exhibit any symptoms or problems from HPV.

* The vaccine should not replace regular health checkups and Pap tests

* The vaccine should not replace safe sex practices such as condoms. It doesn't prevent all STDs, or even all types of HPV. Also, keep in mind, HPV is a DNA-virus.

* News media employ hype and scare tactics to engage your attention. Don't just skim headlines or listen to soundbites, or rely on commericals for information. Dig deep.

In my last two blog posts about this, I linked to many sites. Go Google. Go learn. Nobody wants cancer. Nobody wants cervical cancer, but be aware of the facts, and the risks. Don't decide based on a sense of urgency and a sense of fear.

Some new things to read:

Study: More than 1 in 4 women has HPV (nice little chart breakdown of numbers)

Can Cervical Cancer Be Prevented? (American Cancer Society)

A Vaccine Every Woman Should Take (read the entire article...the headline is one of those hype deals to grab your attention)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) (eMedicine by WebMD)

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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NotSoSage said...

This is great information that you're sharing, and I do think it's important that people look closely at it.

I'll admit, however, that I balk when I see Peter Duesberg's name. He is one of the scientists on the fringe who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. While I think that voices that question scientific postulation are important and should not be censored, I also think that it's important to question your sources very carefully.

Then again, Duesberg's expertise is in cancer (and not AIDS).

I think it's important to note, though, that it takes a HUGE body of evidence -- amassed by many different people through many different studies -- before researchers will use the word "cause". The reason they use "related" or "associated" is a complicated mathematical theory that makes causation very difficult to prove, and only through the accumulation of reams and reams of evidence will they slowly, hesitantly, start using "cause".

As you said, there are many other factors that are likely at play here -- genetic predisposition to cancer, environmental and lifestyle factors -- that may make some people more vulnerable to cervical cancer than others, whether or not they've been infected by HPV.

Again, this isn't my area of expertise, and I'm certainly not advocating use of the vaccine (since I know very little about it or the different types being offered). I think it's amazing that you're using this as a forum to bring information to women who might not otherwise find it.

Sorry for the essay...

Thailand Gal said...

Thank you for all this research. I tend to distrust anything that is being plugged for the purpose of raising some company's profit margin.

I'd be curious to know the root reasons for an increase in this disease.

Julie Pippert said...

Chani, do you mean an increase in HPV? Or in cervical cancer?

If you mean HPV, they are releasing hard numbers froma new study. I understood that the findings supported the theory.


"We expected to find that this was a highly prevalent infection," said Dr. Eileen Dunne, a CDC epidemiologist and chief author of the study, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. "What we found was consistent with that."

Gwen said...

I have learned so much about the vaccine from you, Julie, and about HPV, etc. So thanks for that.

Julie Pippert said...

Notsosage, I agree. I STRONGLY encourage everyone to go do their own research and consider the sources, then make their own decision/conclusion.

That's been my entire many talking heads (have I just made myself one???) spreading incomplete or misinformation, talking as if there is only one choice, etc.

As for Duesberg...that study was the most frequently cited. I'd say because it backed up certain POVs (and that might be why in many cases) but it also was cited in more mainstream sources, and was corroborated/validated/consistent with other information, such as the ACS.

I do not believe there is currently enough evidence to use cause, (nor do any of the sources I respect, such as ACS use it) and I feel that the media is extremely careless in their language (in more than just this situation, too, but that's another rant). They keep saying "cause" and "prevents cancer."

I'm so worried that people will think "HA! had the vaccine. I'm fine, I'm protected," and not realize, no you still need protection, and the checkups, and the longevity is not solidly known so you will probably need boosters (or definitely in the case of Cervarix).

I hope I haven't come across like I think I'm an expert. I'm just accumulating and regurgitating, and asking people to approach this mindfully.

Essays are VERY WELCOME here!

Thank you SO MUCH for your wonderful perspective and points on this.

Bones said...

Not having a cervix, and being married to a non-hpv carrying wife I dont have a dog in the fight, but wow, you're much kinder than I am.

I think the part about the whole deal that stinks is Mereck's organizaed lobbying campaign to make this crap manditory. If I manufactured something that costs 300+ dollars, I'd love to have it manditory. Except, the supreme court would throw me in jail for violating the sherman antitrust act at a minimum, and for possible health violations if any of this stuff proves to be as dangerous as we think it is.

Julie Pippert said...

Bones, two close relatives of mine have dealt with cervical cancer. And there's more too, but it's not my story. I do have a dog in this hunt, a really close, personal one.

The kicker about Merck and GSK (and I do HEAVILY distrust them and think the campaign contributions and other financial perks to politicians ought to be closely investigated...but I'm trying to remain trsutworthy and not come off like a mouth-frothing person, which I could all too easily do, especially after Perry's stunt.)

Anyway the kicker about both companies is they have a potential financial crisis on the horizon in that they are losing the market to generics on some big sellers.

So they have a mighty big motivator and it isn't our best health interests.

So much of the research and information comes from them and so that is why I beg people to do their own independent research.

The mandatory part of this is obnoxious, and I said so in a past post (linked in this one). IMO this is not a public health risk. The vaccine isnt the only way to avoid HPV.

That leads me to my next tinfoil hat: the conservative Republicans (also the ones in favor of making this mandatory)preferring abstinence education over safe sex education and how that is a factor here too.

People who really care about health are crying themselves to sleep at night as this becomes more and more politicized. The actual potential benefits are becoming lost in the immoral actions.

Emily Snipes said...

WOW - that is a lot of good information! I admit I haven't read your previous HPV posts. We have a good family friend who is an Ob/Gyn and also has 5 daughters. I asked him if he planned to have his girls take this vaccine (they are a religious family and I wasn't sure where he would stand on this issue)...his answer was that although he sees this as being a money-maker for the drug company & that he does not agree with state's requiring girls to be immunized, that he probably will have his own girl's take the shots.

He stated that research has shown that men can carry the HPV virus for up to 20 years and it never show up - even when tested specifically. His concern was that if his daughter married a man down the road who'd had even one previous sexual partner, then he could potentially pass it on to his daughter.

Not sure if I explained that correctly. Wish I had some research to site.

NotSoSage said...

Checking in for a follow up and all of the points you make are excellent. I feel so out of it when I talk to people in the US because I tend to forget that universal healthcare is not the norm. Even...especially if the vaccine were effective, I can't believe that they would make it mandatory, and then charge people for it. That's abhorrent!

Thanks for the dialogue! I appreciate it!

Julie Pippert said...

Emily, I think the vaccine holds value but the real potential benefits are being obscured, and I fear we run a risk of higher rates of cervical cancer (and other issues) and mortality from it due to lack of understanding and miscommunication.

Currently, both vaccines are only known to last 4 years.

If girls are required to get it at nine, then it expires just when some girls start becoming sexually active, leaving them vulnerable.

That's my problem with the mandate.

I'd rather be able to manage my kids' health on my own. Keep our communication open, and when they think they might become sexually active, go see a GYN, get checked, and determine the best methods of protection.

Hopefully that's age 25 LOL at me. But also hopefully not NINE.

It makes no sense to me whatsoever to require the vaccine that lasts for four years at age nine. It also makes no sense to me whatsoever to mandate it.

I understand (hopefully correctly) that 20 years is the typical incubation time between exposure/infection and symptoms of problems from HPV.

Your doctor makes good points, and so do you. So glad you took the time to comment!

Gwen said...

I do think that the political crap is really muddying the waters. I was just reading the discussion at another blog ( and many of the (very liberal, and full disclosure, I'm one, too) readers were kind of knee jerking in the "duh! everyone should have this" direction precisely, I think, because the right embraces abstinence. It becomes not about the health of your child or the right of a parent to choose, but about sticking it to those dumbass conservatives who can't accept that sexuality is the norm. And as a thinking parent, that bothers me.

All things remaining as they are, I will probably get my girls the vaccine, but I would like the right to question it without being labeled a conservative or paranoid or whatever else gets thrown around half-assedly in political debates.

And the info from Emily about how long HPV can remain dormant is really interesting, because I recently had an abnormal Pap and I thought, how would I ever explain an HPV diagnosis to my husband .... or how would he explain it to me?

Good stuff, Julie.

Julie Pippert said...

Notsosage, OMG get me started talkign about the lack of universal healthcare. Rant rant rant for probably a straight year without taking a breath.

My husband and I started using a Health Savings Account for healthcare. Thsi is where---pre-tax---we withdraw money from his paycheck and save it up in the account.

We negotiate a discount rate with healthcare providers and pay the full amount of the visit out of this account.

The benefit here is that our health insurance premiums dropped.

We were paying through the nose for the insurance, then they barely covered anything so we paid through the nose twice.

Once we hit $4000, insurance kicks in and covers everything 100%, but we know that until then, we pay it all ourselves, out of pocket, 100%.

This is what we've come to. We could not afford the insurance premiums any longer. But we can't afford to have no coverage.

Also, his company gave a bonus deposit to the account because by doing this, we've saved them a ton of money.

Anyway, rant off, for now. LOL

As far as mandating a vaccine...

As best I know and understand, if a vaccine is mandated, and a patient is uninsured, the doctor or hospital MUST provide it anyway.

What this does...

It asks the healthcare system to bear the cost of a political choice.

The healthcare system in turn passes this cost along to patients who do have insurance and who can pay.

I'm sure you can figure out that a mathematical formula comes into play as they try to amoritize costs.

I'm also not sure how easily healthcare providers let expensive medication go with no payment.

Healthcare providers are allowed to pursue patients via collection agencies, ruin credit, and garnish wages to get payment.

It's bad for the patients. Bad for the healthcare providers.

The state of healthcare...very troubled.

Now I promise to try to stop ranting.

Julie Pippert said...


I was just composing my reply to you, now I need to edit and redo.

Okay as always, I am glad to know I've provided some service, however small. Thanks for telling me.

First, the abnormal Pap might have nothing to do with HPV.

I know someone who only a short bit ago had an abnormal Pap, and more tests, and ultimately had a portion of the cervix removed due to abnormal cells (forget the name of the procedure) (she said it was a very pleasant experience because she got to spend half a day in outpatient surgery while her DH was with the kids...said it was a real holiday, even read a magazine LOL). Anyway, her situation was definitely not due to HPV. They checked.

Amen to wanting to ability to question it (and BY GUM I'd freaking like the ability to DECIDE ON MY OWN damn it) without a label.

As I said to Emily, the vaccine lasts for 4 years. As best I can tell, that means $360 per daughter every four years starting at age 9. How ludicrous. I'd rather start it when and if they need it. You know, at age 30, when they get married, virgins. ;) LOL at me.

Gwen said...

Oh, don't worry. My next pap was normal, but when my doc first told me that I didn't have HPV, I was like, Huh? Well, of course not! And then I thought, "but what if I did?" So now I know.

We're a few years and hopefully some better info away from 9.

However, since American Idol has been prompting discussions about boobs, fake and otherwise, we are NOT too many minutes away from the beginning of sex ed.

Julie Pippert said...

AI and boobs?

Here is has prompted discussions about how very rude it is to call someone's singing ghasty because that might hurt felings (Patience lecturing me) and telling me to use my inside voice when I moaned, wailed and gnashed teeth after seeing Antonella remain.

My belief that Nina Simone is way over the heads of the average AI voting public was proven correct as both AJ and Leslie got sent home.

My husband's poor opinion that "sex sells" was also proven out with Antonella being given another chance.

My poor ears.

Back to HPV...yes, we have a few years until nine. Hopefully Perry will be in jail by then. And also we'll know more.

Gwen said...

Currently, my oldest thinks that fake boobs are "Gross!" just like boys and girls kissing.

Yes, she notices them, especially, when, like Kellie Pickler's, they were so prominently displayed last night.

I'm sure you know that there's an entire group of people at a site called Vote for the Worst who do just that. So perverse, those people, and so unkind for making me suffer Sanjaya's scary mouth and Antonella's EVERYTHING one more week.

kim said...

I've followed your links and obsessively researched this issue all day. I'm very frustrated and can't make sense of it all.

I too have a dog in this hunt, a close personal one as well. I need to think about this more and collect my thoughts into something coherent.

Thanks for all the info.