Girl Talk at VRMC

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 5, 2006

October is National Cervical Cancer Month

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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Selma physicians William Deavor and Timothy Marlow wished more young women had attended Thursday’s Girl Talk seminar on cervical cancer at Vaughan Regional Medical Center.

According to recent statistics, 9.2 million young adults, ages 15 to 24, have the human papillomavirus or HPV – an oftentimes dormant sexually transmitted disease that is the sole cause of cervical cancer. While half of all women are diagnosed with cervical cancer between the ages of 35 and 50, many of these women most likely contracted HPV in their teens or 20s.

Deavor, a gynecologist, and Marlow, an obstetrician/gynecologist, shared the latest news regarding HPV treatments at the seminar and introduced a new HPV vaccine to the Selma public.

Distributed by Merck pharmaceutical company, the new HPV vaccine became commercially available on Oct. 1 and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July, Deavor said. Deavor suggested young women be vaccinated between the ages of 10 and 13, “before they become sexually active.” The vaccine can be given to women up to 26 years of age, Deavor said, citing most women have been exposed to HPV by that age. The vaccine isn’t recommended for pregnant women.

In the United States this year, 10,000 cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed, resulting in 3,700 deaths. Marlow said cervical cancer originates in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina or “the mouth of the womb.”

Cervical cancer can develop when women are exposed to “high-risk” types of HPV. Deavor said there are 100 known types of HPV, all defined by a number. The new vaccine targets four specific HPV types, 16 and 18 (high risk) and 6 and 11 (low risk).

Currently insurance companies and Medicare do not cover vaccination expenses, which is $200 per injection for three shots. Deavor said the vaccine is proven to be 100 percent effective and believes the cost will decrease over time.

“Unfortunately it’s expensive, but treating cervical cancer is also expensive,” he said.

Deavor emphasized if every woman was vaccinated for HPV, it would not prevent all cervical cancer cases. However, annual pap smears and healthy lifestyle choices decrease one’s chances of developing the disease.

“I’ve had two cases of invasive cervical cancer,” Marlow said. “One woman who last saw the doctor 30 years ago after she had a baby and the other last went to the doctor 10 or 15 years ago.”

“A pap smear is very important and it’s very simple.”

Deavor added a pre-teen or young woman’s best bet against contracting HPV is abstinence and the vaccine and encouraged the audience of mothers and grandmothers to pass the information along to their daughters and granddaughters.

For more information about HPV, talk to a local physician or visit the Web site,