Avera Medical Minute: HPV vaccine can help prevent certain cancers

Sioux Falls, S.D. - HPV or the human papillomavirus is most common known as a sexually transmitted infection or a wart virus.

“The warts that we are most worried about or concerned about today, are the warts that can cause diseases such as cervical cancer, cancer in our mouths, rectal cancers, and penial cancers,” Avera family medicine physician Dr. Patty Peters said.

To help prevent those cancers from ever happening, doctors can administer the HPV vaccine.

When the Gardasil HPV vaccine was first made available about 10 years ago, it was directed more toward girls to help prevent STD’s or cervical cancer.

But, the vaccine is made for both girls and boys and it’s about more than STD’s.

“So now we have to kind of catch up and hopefully spread the word that it is also for young guys,” Peters said. “We really want to spread the word that it can prevent diseases that men can get too.”

The vaccine can be given to girls and boys as young as nine up to age 26.

If you get before age 15, you only need two immunizations.

“One on one day and within 6 months or 6 months later you get the 2nd one,” Peters said.

If you wait to get the vaccine between the age of 15 and 26 you will need three vaccines.

Doctors said they like to give the shots to young patients like Ryley McKeown.

“I’ve been checking all of Ryley’s vaccinations off since he was a child,” Ryley’s mom Jen McKeown said. “We really have to be advocates for our own family’s health and our own health. It’s up to us to keep track of things.”

“A sore arm is better than cancer first of all and second of all my mom bribes me to do this,” Ryley said. “We usually go out to get a treat.”

Ryley took getting the shot like a champ, saying he looks at the bigger picture of what this shot will do.

“I don’t like being stuck with a needle any more than anybody else does, but once again I think about the upside,” Ryley said. “It’s better than getting cancer.”

“I think a lot of parents may struggle with the HPV vaccination because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease,” Jen said. “We don’t want to give our kids the appearance of giving them the permission to be sexually active so that's a tough one. The bottom line is I love my son and I want him to be as healthy as he can be.”

Because HPV is not just a sexually transmitted issue.

“We are trying to stop cancer,” Peters said. “It’s too bad sometimes that cancer has to come through these means of sexually transmitted warts, but if we want to prevent a disease that can happen several years down the line we need to do the shots now.”