Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Bitterest Pill

Sadly, this is something that I, and too many other women I know, have had to deal with in our short lifespans - the threat of cervical cancer. So this is welcome news (and something that has been coming down the pike for a few years now):

If the Food and Drug Administration rules as expected on a new vaccine next month, cancer of the cervix could be prevented by a vaccine. Last week, an F.D.A. advisory board unanimously endorsed the vaccine, which protects against infection with human papillomavirus or HPV.

There have been only a few times in my life as a physician when I've been able to say (at least to myself), "This is truly big news." My colleagues are saying the same thing. But they are also asking how this promising new treatment will be made available to women and girls worldwide.

In the 30 years since I saw my patient, HPV has been demonstrated to be the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world and the cause of almost all cervical cancers.

(Read the entire article here.)

There is also a vaccine against herpes, which has already been proven to work in women, but not men. So what? If the girls can't catch it. the guys can't spread it. It goes extinct. Same with HPV.

So what is the hesitation with these vaccines? Number one: cost. If all girls are vaccinated around the age of 12, hopefully before they become sexually active, it will cost between $300 and $500 for each girl. And there are a lot of girls in this country.

And the second problem is... Promiscuity. What? Huh? Well, all those super hardcore Christian types are arguing that if girls get this vaccine at such a young age, it will lead them down the road to ruin because they will think they are invincible. I'm not kidding. The future health of our world's women, and the potential eradication of not one, BUT TWO diseases... ONE OF WHICH IS CANCER... is being held back due to morality issues stemming from the conservatives.

I really can't say anything more about it. I just wish this vaccine was around when I was younger, so that my sister and myself, and countless other friends, did not have to go through the fear, pain, and medical procedures brought on by chasing off this cancer in its early stages. Because we got lucky.

If we had been around 30 years earlier, we would have died. Just a thought.