“You are the Key.” In order to prevent cancer, according the CDC’s education campaign, all of us can take numerous key steps to increase our chances of stopping cancer before it starts. One excellent example is the HPV vaccine.
We are fortunate to have a vaccine that helps prevent cancers related to Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses that can cause cancer in both men and women, including mouth/throat, penile, cervical, and other gynecological cancers. It is transmitted through intimate skin to skin contact, but vaccines can prevent infection with the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer.
Maine Cancer Foundation is dedicated to reducing the incidence and mortality rate of all cancers in Maine 20% by 2020 by fostering programs that focus on prevention, screening, and access to high quality care for all Mainers. In 2017, MCF granted Maine Quality Counts $264,201 over two years for a HPV Vaccination Learning Collaborative. The project, led by Jessica Reed, Quality Improvement Manager at Quality Counts, will increase HPV vaccination rates focusing on girls and boys ages 11 to 13 years across the state, thus preventing many unnecessary cancer diagnoses down the road.
The project uses evidence-based interventions with eight Pediatric or Primary Care Practices across the state to increase HPV vaccine rates. Reed states that the project is based on the science of cancer prevention with the vaccine and the data behind it. “The focus is to convey to the community at large that the HPV vaccine is truly cancer prevention, and that is the key message that needs to go out. We have research that has been done and data showing which strains of the virus cause different types of cancer in both men and women. It’s a totally different conversation than it used to be.”
Reed will provide two on-site HPV trainings to the providers and clinical staff of the Pediatric and Primary Care practices participating in the project. She encourages them to talk to parents about the importance of the HPV vaccine for cancer prevention; emphasizing that the younger their child gets the vaccine, the stronger their immune response will be, increasing the protection from HPV viruses.
The HPV vaccines are typically started around age 11-12 years old and should be given with other adolescent vaccines. Another talking point for clinical staff with parents is that their child will also only need two doses of HPV vaccine if the series is initiated prior to their 15th birthday. If commenced after age 15, they will require a total of three doses of the HPV vaccine.
While Reed is excited about the countless cases of cervical cancer (and other cancers) that can be averted in girls, boys stand to gain from the vaccine as well. She shared there was recently a CNN article that referenced a new study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that stated that about one in nine American men are infected with the oral form of HPV. The article mentions that “rates of oropharyngeal cancer among men have risen more than 300% in the past 40 years, making it the most common HPV-related cancer in the US.” 1
As well as doing the in-person trainings, Reed will be providing participants support with monthly on-site visits and facilitating a monthly coaching call between the offices to share best practices with each other. By focusing on best practices, data, and education, she predicts that the work done in this project by the practitioners will continue to impact patient outcomes even after the grant is finished. The Maine Cancer Foundation believes that prevention is a key pillar to reducing cancer rates in Maine, and will continue to partner with organizations across the state to implement effective prevention measures that can help save lives.