Friday, June 7, 2013

I'm (Just Like) a Movie Star!

It is quite a coincidence that the very week I received the final diagnosis for my tongue cancer is the week that the disease received a great deal of media attention due to a famous sufferer: Michael Douglas. I find it kinda cool, as it gives a much wider audience some context and understanding of this particular disease.

It's convenient shorthand to be able to say, "I have the same cancer as Michael Douglas."

It's also a good opportunity for a little education. Check out the National Cancer Institute page on HPV and Cancer.

Here are the key points:

  • Some types of sexually transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPVs) can cause genital warts. Other types, called high-risk or oncogenic HPVs, can cause cancer.
  • High-risk HPVs cause virtually all cervical cancers. They also cause most anal cancers and some vaginal, vulvar, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers.
  • Most infections with high-risk HPVs do not cause cancer. Many HPV infections go away on their own within 1 to 2 years. However, infections that last for many years increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

In a future post I'll argue that you should be getting your children vaccinated against HPV. The argument is pretty simple: we can almost completely prevent cervical cancer and my form of oral cancer if the population is widely vaccinated. You can't say that about any other cancer: that we know exactly how to prevent it and it's easy.

In my opinion, failure to protect your children against a preventable cancer because of prudishness or baseless mistrust of vaccinations is irresponsible and cruel.

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