INDIANAPOLIS, Ind – January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, and health organization across the country are using it as a chance to raise awareness for HPV or Human Papilloma Virus.
January 22 marks the start of the first-ever HPV week in the United States. The virus affects more than 14 million people in the U.S. every year.
The virus can cause different types of cancer, including cervical cancer and head and neck cancers in men.
These cancers could be prevented with a vaccine. However, only 50% of children are vaccinated for HPV in the U.S. That number drops to 40% in Indiana.
“It can cause what is called respiratory papillomatosis,” said Dr. Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, executive director of IU’s National Center of Excellence and Women’s Health. “Respiratory Pulmonary Papillomatosis is actually basically little warts inside your lung. They have to be taken out by a bronchoscopy. It affects little kids as they come out through the vagina through the birth canal. So this is something that can affect a kid their whole entire life.”
It also affects 1 in 4 people who are sexually active. Doctors say the virus is hard to prevent because it can be transmitted from skin-to-skin contact. According to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in America.
“Men need to be protected, not only because they can be carriers but also HPVC can cause head and neck cancer, genital warts, anal warts and penile cancer,” said Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber. “I think for most men if you have to think about burning off lesions in any area that’s sensitive - that should raise awareness pretty easily.”
Doctors say the best thing to do is raise awareness of the virus, how to prevent it, and benefits of the vaccine. That’s why IU School of Medicine National Center of Excellence for Women’s Health is teaming up with several other medical and health organizations for a week of online events.
“The public can learn because they are gonna hear about all different types of issues related to HPV and related to the vaccine,” said Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber. They are going to learn about diagnoses, management… but they are also going to learn about preventative techniques. And they are also going to learn a lot about the virus itself.”
They hope to ease fears about getting the HPV vaccine and also help with prevention.
The webinars will run until January 28.
For more information about IU's webinars and how to register, click here.
For more information about HPV Awareness Week, click here.