Your Healthy Family: Importance of HPV vaccinations - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Your Healthy Family: Importance of HPV vaccinations

Joe Foster says he is one of the lucky ones.  He is a survivor of throat cancer that began with H.P.V. Joe Foster says he is one of the lucky ones. He is a survivor of throat cancer that began with H.P.V.

Joe Foster says he is one of the lucky ones.  He is a survivor of throat cancer that began with H.P.V., human papillomavirus.  Joe’s story is the perfect example of why everyone should be screened regularly for oral cancer.  ”My story is actually one that's becoming much more typical,  of a relatively young, pretty healthy non drinker non smoker, who was diagnosed with throat cancer.”

Dr. Fred Guerra, a Colorado Springs dentist says every patient at his practice is given regular oral cancer screenings because more and more oral cancer isn’t always tied to certain behaviors.  "About a third of all cancer patients, they don't have any of the usual risk factors.  They are non smokers, they are not drinkers, but there's also age, genetics, and maybe someone's immune system to consider.  Now there's a host of factors and for that reason we screen every body."

Joe says his treatment was ‘a real drag’ but his outcome has been as good as he and his doctors could have hoped for.  "I didn't have chemo, but I did have six weeks of radiation therapy.  I had neck surgery to remove some lymph nodes.  I lost all the taste in my mouth.  Swallowing became almost unbearable, and I lost about 25 pounds.  I was lucky some people never get their taste or saliva function back.  I have received my taste back, my saliva function is fine.  The people who never get their saliva back, can have dental problems for the rest of their lives."

Dr. Amir Salek, is a family practice doctor with UCHealth Primary Care North, and says H.P.V. can cause any number of problems, and cancers depending on what strain of the virus a person contracts.  "H.P.V. is a virus and similar to other viruses it is transmitted through contact, specifically in the case of H.P.V. based on the person's behavior it can cause different types of problems.  Those problems can range from genital warts, to cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, all the way to oropharyngeal throat cancer."

Dr. Salek, and Joe are both big advocates for HPV vaccination.  Dr. Salek says, ”The general consensus that is supported with most of the authorities and entities related to immunization,  the recommendation is to target teenagers around the ages of 11 to 12.  Their range can be as early as 9 and generally as late as 26.  Vaccination is aimed at the prevention of spread of the illness, and is most useful in a time when a teenager has not been exposed to the virus.  That is why It’s very important to make sure that teenagers get a vaccination if possible before beginning their sexual activities, so that would give them the biggest benefit for the vaccine they are receiving.”

Joe adds, ”I'm a huge advocate for the vaccine.  I found out obviously during my treatment that there was a vaccine for this (H.P.V.) and as soon as we were back from treatment I had my two teenage boys vaccinated, after I talked to my doctor about it.  If you have daughters or sons, i believe you want to get them vaccinated against this virus that causes cancer, it's really a vaccine against cancer, so it’s kind of a no brainer.”

Dr. Salek tells me if all 12 yr olds in the U.S could be vaccinated against H.P.V. that could potentially eliminate about 2,000 cases of H.P.V. infections, which in turn would translate to  preventing about 3,000 cases of cervical cancer alone.

If it’s been a while, or if you’re not sure you have ever been given an oral cancer screening, Dr. Guerra says during the month of April, anyone interested in a free oral cancer screening call his office, at 719-596-1230 to arrange a screening free of charge. Guerra Dental is located at 3208 Academy Blvd N #100, Colorado Springs, CO 80917


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