About 2,800 Filipinas die of cervical cancer each year, medical authorities said, which means about seven women die of the disease every day.
Thus, foreign and local doctors never tire of advising parents to have their children immunized against the virus which causes it and other diseases.
Although awareness of human papillomavirus (HPV) as a cause of cervical cancer has grown over the last decade, health experts said, there is still a lack of understanding of HPV-related diseases and how these can affect teenagers.
It is critical to continue to spread information of the perils of HPV and the importance of vaccination as protection against HPV diseases.
HPV-related cancers and genital warts can affect both females and males. It is the most common viral infection of the human reproductive tract.
There are more than 100 types of HPV and approximately 40 types can affect the genital area, 15 to 20 of those are high-risk types that can cause cancers, while the other 10 to 15 types are responsible for benign HPV-related diseases including genital warts.
Dr. May Montellano, president of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination and a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said children should be protected long before they are at risk of exposure to HPV.
“HPV often has no visible signs or symptoms, so as a parent, you will not know if your child is exposed to it. There’s no way to predict who will or who won’t clear the virus. It is important that you understand how HPV-related diseases can affect your daughters and sons,” Montellano advised.
“We shouldn’t wait until exposure to give HPV vaccination—Bivalent and quadrivalent HPV vaccines that are available in the Philippines,” she stressed.
Montellano said the quadrivalent HPV vaccine helps provide protection against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. It has undergone efficacy and safety trials similar to those given to other adolescent vaccines so it can be administered to children as young as nine years old.
She said HPV vaccination works best in children from the age of nine because pre-teens have a higher immune response to the vaccine than older individuals.
Although they might not be exposed to HPV at that age, they should be vaccinated because the risk of exposure increases rapidly.
Dr. Cecilia Ladines-Llave, a practicing gynecologic oncologist at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the Philippine General Hospital, noted that besides various cancers, HPV can also cause genital warts.
Llave said studies have shown that if a woman contracts genital warts, there is a greater chance that she will suffer HPV-related cancers as she grows older.
She further clarified that certain types of HPV that can cause head, neck, anal, and penile cancers among males as well.
Llave, who is the program director of the Cancer Institute Foundation (CIF) and the chairman of the Cervical Cancer Prevention Network (CECAP), stressed that parents must early on ask their doctors how best to protect their adolescent children, both females and males, against HPV diseases.
Dr. Cesar Recto II, MSD Philippines medical director, revealed that they have tirelessly worked with healthcare providers, the Department of Health, medical societies, cancer support groups, the media and other civic organizations to increase awareness of HPV.
Dr. Beaver Tamesis, MSD Philippines managing director, stressed that with the underestimated prevalence of HPV in the Philippines, it is imperative that more Filipinos be informed of the protection that vaccination can provide against HPV- related illnesses and cancers.
MSD in the Philippines, a leading global research-based healthcare company, earlier commemorated adolescent immunization month and the 10th year of HPV prevention in the Philippines.
The event featured presentations from experts who explained key facts about HPV including prevalence in the country, complications and prevention.