Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Friday, June 9th 2006, 10:37 am
By: News On 6

It is the first vaccine specifically designed to prevent cancer.

News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin has more on the exciting new drug that doctors say could save thousands of lives a year by putting a stop to cervical cancer. It's a virus carried by millions of Americans, usually harmless but it can lead to a deadly disease, cervical cancer.

The human papaloma virus or HPV is sexually transmitted and doctors say newly FDA approved 'Gardasil' can stop it. "The vaccine is a way to prevent the cause of cervical cancer even getting started in women." Tulsa Doctor Paul Gehrig is thrilled about news of a vaccine, but he says it alone won't win the battle. The vaccine is only effective if you've never been exposed to HPV. "So if you already have the human papillova virus, which conservative estimates are that 50-percent of sexually active Americans have this virus, then it's not gonna help them."

Even though this vaccine isn't for everyone. Doctors say its proper usage, combined with regular pap smears could virtually wipe out cervical cancer in America. But proper usage means getting it to the population it can help, young girls, as early as age 9. It's a statement causing some controversy, but Dr Gehring says it's a vaccine like any other, there's no need to go into detail with your child. "The reality is when you have 50-percent of your population carrying a virus; you're probably better off treating everyone you can."

Shannon Arvisu agrees. The 28 year old was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year. "If this vaccine had been available just a few years ago, this whole process could have been avoided."

Doctor Paul Gehrig: “This is gonna have a huge impact for medicine and an unbelievably huge impact for women."

The vaccine is not in Tulsa yet, but should be available soon. Experts say Gardasil could prevent 70-percent of cervical cancer cases worldwide. The best way for adult women to fight the disease is still getting an annual exam.