HPV Dangers & the HPV Vaccine - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock


HPV Dangers & the HPV Vaccine

"When I was 19, I was diagnosed with cancer because of HPV. I was raped at 18, my first semester at college the HPV developed into cervical cancer," said Erica Milam. 

So by age 20, Erica was rushed into surgery to have 85% of her cervix removed. In the four years since the surgery, she has married and suffered four miscarriages.

"But had I taken the vaccine, I would never have had cervical cancer. I would have never lost the ability to have children. Yes, it has changed my entire life," said Erica. 

Worldwide, scientists have identified about 100 sub-types of the Human Papilloma Virus, but the vaccine protects against four that are the most damaging, two strains, number 16 and 18 are particularly aggressive and responsible for 70% of the cervical cancers worldwide.  Two other strains number 6 and 11 are blamed for 90 percent of Condoloma.

"If a woman has Condoloma, or venereal warts and delivers a baby and the virus gets into the baby's throat, it can grow so large that it can suffocate and kill that baby," said Dr. Kellie Flood-Shaffer, an OB/GYN at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Flood-Shaffer also says although it may sound like a long shot for you to end up with one of those four strains of HPV, are you willing to take that chance?

"It's a virus, although the most common transmission is sexual transmission, although it's uncommon, say you wore somebody else's bathing suit. It's rare but there are cases that have happened. An even greater risk is that more than 10,000 women in this country were diagnosed last year with cervical cancer and 4,000 women died of the disease. I'm very much in favor of the HPV vaccine. It is one of the greatest developments toward the battle against cancer we have ever seen," said Dr. Flood-Shaffer.

After testing the vaccine in more than 25,000 women over a ten-year period, the FDA has decided the HPV vaccine works best in girls as young as 9 years old.

"It has been 100% effective in those who are naive to the virus, never been exposed," said Dr. Flood-Shaffer. 

Even so, there are many parents, like Kerry Miller, who came to the station with three pages of arguments and a heavy heart about protecting his little girl from this government mandate. 

"This is the same company that studied and made Vioxx a few years ago and later took it off the market. You can't un-immunize these little girls," said Miller.

His biggest concern, what if time will tell another story and later, this immunization is recalled. Dr. Flood-Shaffer explains, you can't compare Vioxx or any other drug treatment to a vaccine.

"A vaccine is given to stimulate an immune response. It's very different from a medication that can damage the kidney, or the liver or the heart. The two are unrelated in terms of how they work in the body," said Dr. Flood-Shaffer. 

The bottom line for Kerry is he is angry that this vaccine was not a suggestion but an order for little girls who are mostly years away from sexual activity.

"I want more time and I don't believe it's the government role to force me to have this injection into my daughter," said Miller.  

"Governor Perry, I think, had excellent intent," said Flood-Shaffer. However, she admits it is unfortunate that a good vaccine might have been better received if the Governor had taken different steps to present it. Even so, her bottom line is unwavering.

"The government mandates lots of things for us for the protection of the general public. I don't think people said by virtue of having to wear a seat belt, we would be more reckless drivers. So by getting the HPV vaccine, it's not going to make us promiscuous. It's about cancer, it's not about sex," said Dr. Flood-Shaffer.

Meanwhile, Erica is back in college now a senior studying philosophy. While learning to heal from the unexpected interruptions in her life, she enjoys time with her niece.

"I was lucky to only have HPV because of the rape but I don't consider myself lucky at all, because I can't have children. I have had cancer but you have to move on," said Erica.

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