Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Follow up visit

My roommate has a friend getting a masters in public health, so she emailed to ask her why it is I'm too old to live. Here was her response, for interested parties:
The vaccine is for 4 types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). These 4 types cause most, but not all cervical cancers (about 70%), and so it provides some protection against that as well as HPV-associated genital warts. The vaccine is not effective against other strains of HPV oragainst cervical cancers due to non-HPV causes- so women who get the vaccine still need pap smears and are still at some risk of cervical cancer.

The vaccine isn't approved for women over 26 because it hasn't been tested in them (not yet, anyway). This is probably due to the fact that a sexually active woman's chances of having already gotten some of the 4 strains of HPV are much higher by this age (they can't really test you and see which strains you have). Most sexually active women get HPV at some point and chances are high that someone our age has already acquired at least one strain. Protection against the remaining strains is nice, but the real huge benefits are supposed to be for girls who aren't yet sexually active. We public health folks love vaccination, but in this case we have to weigh the costs of the shot against the likelihood of already having HPV, and the fact that you'll still be getting yearly pap tests no matter what you do.
And with that, I'm off in an hour to get meningitis and polio vaccines instead.

4 Comments:

At 12:19 PM, December 05, 2006, Blogger G. said...

That's still ridiculous. YOU should be the one weighing whether the less-than-"real huge" benefits are worth the cost to YOU PERSONALLY, not the doctor. If somebody wants to pay $400 or whatever to get protection against the remaining strains, it's outrageous that the doctor would refuse to give them the vaccine.

 
At 12:39 PM, December 05, 2006, Blogger Heather said...

They won't refuse to give it to you. It's just that there doesn't seem to be a point, I guess. While I was at the traveler's clinic now I talked with the doc about it, and she said they really made it for VERY young girls, like 12-13. The point, they say, is to get you before you become sexual active (when you'd acquire HPV), and before you start getting regular paps (when your doc can detect cervical cancer).

I think we just got unlucky, that they created the vaccine right when it wouldn't be beneficial for us anymore, but at least we can get our daughters innoculated.

 
At 1:32 PM, December 05, 2006, Anonymous Sylvie said...

Asked my doc about it today. He said he would not recommend getting it yet. It wasn't a matter of age. His concern was that the vaccine is so new and, like with any other medication or vaccine, you should wait a year for the developers to work out any kinks before trying it. He said that if the vaccine proves good in about a year, he'd give it me. So till then, I'm not suppose to spread my legs. Doctors orders. (yeah...like how i'm suppose to eat right and exercise regularly. heh.)

 
At 6:59 AM, December 07, 2006, Blogger bekbek said...

What do you mean? You haven't been having SEX, have you?!

I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you.

 

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