Doctors may not have found a cure for cancer but there is a way to prevent one type of cancer that kills thousands of women every year.
Vaccines against five dangerous strains of the Human Papoloma Virus that are known to cause cervical cancer were developed and approved a few years ago, most famous of those being Gardasil.
Dr. Karrie Lien, a family medicine doctor at Northern Montana Hospital’s East Clinic, says the vaccine is recommended for girls and women between the ages of 9 and 24 years old, but she feels it is useful for more than that group.
While insurance companies and the government cover the cost of the vaccine for girls in that group, it is not as frequently covered for boys. This is a shame, Lien said, because boys and men can still carry the virus and spread it to girls or women in their lives who could face the consequences.
Lien said that it bothers some parents because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, mostly known for the warts it induces, and they don’t want to condone related behaviors.
“It creeps out parents when they think about that because (they think their) kids will never have sex, ” Lien said, “but I tell them that they want one day to be a grandparent so they need to do this. ”
The vaccine also received some attention lately when Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann told a reporter after a recent debate that she had heard that the vaccine had caused mental issues in a child.
According to Lien, and the studies conducted by professional medical researchers that she has read, there is no such risk in receiving this vaccine. In both animal and human trials, no link between the vaccine and mental development has been found.
The worst that can happen, Lien said, are symptoms typical of any vaccination, mild flu-like symptoms caused by the immune system kicking in and developing antibodies against HPV.
The cancer-preventing vaccine is available at any of the clinics in town, Lien said, from hers to Bullhook Community Health Center. Danielle Golie, director of the Hill County Health Department, said that they also administer the vaccine.
It is given in three stages and is covered by most insurance plans.
Lien recommends people get vaccinated either during high school physicals or at least before they head to college.