HPV Vaccination Saves Lives

In a terrifying turn of events, many parents have been convinced not to take the ‘free’ opportunity to protect their daughters from the insidious disease that is cervical cancer. This year in Ireland alone, 280 young women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, of which 90 will die. The idea of chemotherapy, radiation, invasive surgery, infertility and death have somehow become overshadowed by the completely unfounded links to alleged side-effects such as chronic lethargy. Every health incident occurring any time near the immunisation (including things like car crashes) are documented. This information can be skewed and misrepresented to support a wide array of misguided claims!

WHAT IS HPV?

HPV or Human Papilloma Virus is an extremely common family viruses that are passed on during sex. Most people will get HPV infection in their lifetime and it usually clears up by itself. Some forms of the virus can also cause genital warts.

For women, ongoing HPV infections can cause abnormal changes in the lining of the cervix. These changes, if left untreated, can lead to cervical cancer. Most cervical cancers are caused by the HPV Virus. HPV has also been strongly linked to a number of other cancers in men and women including cancers of the anus, mouth and throat, vulva, vagina and penis.

HPV-caused cancers broken down by gender and cancer type

MY STORY:

Each year in Ireland, 6,500 women will need hospital treatment to remove pre-cancerous growths from their cervix! Having been through this treatment myself, let me tell you that it is invasive and horrendous. I didn’t have the luxury of prevention as the vaccine wasn’t introduced to schools until after I had left.

After ever worsening degrees of cell abnormality which likely have resulted in cervical cancer and death, I had a LLETZ procedure. This comprised of having a large part of my cervix burnt away in an effort to annihilate the precancerous cells and hopefully encouraging healthy cells grow in their place. This is often done under general aesthetic, but in my case, it was done under local. The internal injections beforehand actually being the most painful part and the overall experience which was very uncomfortable and undignified. The staff at The Coombes Colposcopy unit were incredible, with one nurse even holding my hand during the ordeal! I was reassured by their professionalism and kindness, but it is still not an experience that I would wish on anyone! Everything from the anxiety building up over the progressively worsening cells infiltrating my body, to the haemorrhage which saw me back in hospital 2 days after the procedure were abhorrent!

I’ve had abnormal smear tests since then and biopsies which are pretty unpleasant I’m their own right. The prognosis of cancer is something that deeply terrifies me, and, I’ll have to be extra vigilant for the rest of my life, but so far have been luckier then the women who find out too late and lose their lives.

VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS:

Social media is the unfortunate breeding ground for pseudoscientific opinions and fictitious nonsense to be laid out as fact. Real medical advice and hard scientific proof is too often ignored in favour of erroneous gossip, spread by those completely ignorant to the fields of medicine or science!

The vaccine is administered using a needle. As common sense might suggest, a little soreness and redness at the injection sight is quite common and short lived.

Another relatively common reaction is fainting. This is true of any vaccination and is due to the process rather then the vaccine itself! Fainting (syncope) is usually caused by stress or pain. Regardless of how calm a person seems externally, even subconscious fear can lead to changes in breathing leading to decreases in carbon dioxide and fainting. I would argue that the increased numbers of girls fainting post vaccination is in fact CAUSED BY the fear mongering of anti-vaxxer groups!

There is the a very small (approximately 3 in 1 million) chance of a serious anaphylactic response to this immunisation. Bear in mind though that a great number of inconspicuous things such as nuts are responsible for anaphylaxis, but this does not negate their health benefits for the general population. In fact, as some people unfortunately cannot receive the vaccine for medical reasons, herd immunity is all the more important to protect the general population.

There are many ambiguous links between the HPV vaccine and everything from premature menopausal side effects to lethargy. The alleged “side effects” logged, are no doubt true and hard for the girls and their families. HOWEVER, these are things which have occurred before the vaccine was ever offered and continue to occur whether the vaccine is administered or not. The only link is an unfortunate series of events occurring coincidently in a similar time frame.

THE REAL RISK:

I’ve read so many harrowing stories of cervical cancer victims. So often young mothers are given the prognosis. I’ve read of the horrific side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Young children forced to watch their mothers deteriorate into a skeletal ghost of their former selves. These mothers who are unsure whether they will even be around to watch their children grow up! Children loosing their mothers, husbands their wives, parents their daughters to cervical cancer… THIS CAN BE PREVENTED!!!

If you are the parent of a young girl, you have an opportunity to save her from such a fate! You don’t need to take my word for it. We all owe it to our children educate ourselves with the facts and to protect them. The real FACTS! Don’t succumb to rumour! If you are unsure, you can email factcheck@thejournal.ie or other reliable sources.

We live in an age where we can protect our children in more and more ingenious ways! I am so thankful for the advances in medicine which allow me protect my children in so many ways.

Thank you for reading,

Sara