By Kim Polacek
“Every two minutes a woman dies of HPV-related cervical cancer. This is a completely preventable cancer!” Those powerful words from Moffitt Cancer Center’s Dr. Anna Giuliano kicked off a congressional briefing at the Rayburn House Building in Washington, D.C. Thursday. The briefing on human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cancers, presented by Moffitt, the American Association for Cancer Research and the Biden Cancer Initiative, was sponsored by U.S. Representative Kathy Castor. She offered these remarks to the standing-room only crowd.
“Every one of you has a role to play in our goal. We have the tools to eliminate HPV-related cancers and save lives,” said U.S. Rep. Castor.
One in 20 cancers worldwide is caused by HPV. In the United States, nearly 34,000 people will develop an HPV-related cancer this year. While cervical cancer is a more well-known HPV-related cancer, just as many men are diagnosed with HPV-related throat cancer as women with cervical cancer. The main difference is cervical cancer can be detected through regular screenings. There are no screenings available for throat cancer and other cancers caused by HPV.
Our only tool is prevention through HPV vaccination. However, the vaccine isn’t being widely used in the U.S.
“We have the opportunity to eliminate up to six HPV-related cancers in our lifetime, starting with cervical cancer. But we need to achieve high vaccine coverage and more widespread participation in cervical cancer screening and treatment programs,” said Giuliano, founder and director of Moffitt’s Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer.
Moffitt has partnered with dozens of cancer organizations and centers to issue a call to action to achieve the objectives of Healthy People 2020:
- Complete vaccination of more than 80% of females and males ages 13 to 15 by 2020;
- Screen 93% of eligible females for cervical cancer by 2020;
- Provide prompt follow-up and treatment of females who screen positive for high-grade cervical precancerous lesions.
“It’s really exciting to say we can get rid of, we can end seeing these cancers. The first step is educating everyone on the tools we have at our disposal and why we think it is possible to get to this goal. And maybe the U.S. could be the first country to eliminate cervical cancer,” said Giuliano.