Preventing Cancer: A message from The Little Red Door Cancer Agency about the HPV vaccine

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.  -- The local nonprofit, Little Red Door Cancer Agency, is always helping people in our area who are battling cancer. As Cancer Prevention Month wraps up, they want to help get the word out: There is a way to prevent some cancers, and it can start during childhood.

"We’ll always be here to help any individual going through a battle with cancer in central Indiana, but if we could not see them before they get to the door, that would be awesome for us,” said Nick Duvall, Vice President of Communications for Little Red Door Cancer Agency.

Duvall says that’s always been the message – they’re here to help, but they hope you never need their services. He says that’s why their message about the HPV vaccine is so important. He says it's one of the ways to avoid seeing more patients who develop cancers because of HPV.

“There’s really quite a few cancers caused by HPV, sometimes people aren’t aware of the range of cancers,” said Dr. Gregory Zimet, Indiana University School of Medicine Professor.

Dr. Zimet explained that there’s both a range of cancers and a range of HPV types.

"There are actually over 100 types of HPV and probably about 80% of adults will at some point have been infected with HPV,” Dr. Zimet said.

Dr. Zimet says the HPV vaccine is recommended with the same strength as the other childhood vaccines for both girls and boys.

“Ideally what we want to see is all children vaccinated at ages 11 and 12,” Dr. Zimet said.

But Zimet also says, while Indiana is known to have high coverage for other vaccines, that’s not been the case with the HPV vaccine.

“We’re about average in U.S. for girls, and we’re way below average for boys, so we’re really lagging behind for boys,” he said.

Both Duvall and Dr. Zimet say they hope to remind parents -- ultimately, it’s about protecting kids into adulthood.

"With HPV, I think part of the confusion is the bad outcome could be 10, 20, 30, 40 years away… but the bad outcomes are bad outcomes,” Dr. Zimet said.

The vaccine is still licensed for men and women up to 26 years old and can be given as early as age 9 years old, but the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that all kids who are 11 or 12 should get the vaccine.

If you’d like more information about the resources at Little Red Door Cancer Agency, click here.