I think that any effort to promote awareness of cancer is one that should be lauded. Whether you like Belo or not, you have to give them props that they’re doing everything they can to educate people on the merits of their new product. There are the giant billboards at EDSA, there’s the I Just Did Web project, and here’s a handy-dandy PDF brochure that you can use to educate yourself on cervical cancer, and why you should get a vaccine.
I’m not a medical professional, but I never thought of a cancer that can be spread through a virus. So, with a viral infection that gave me some strain of flu, I did what research I can. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is, apparently, the leading cause of cervical cancer, although many instances of infection clear up on their own. HPV infections are sexually transmitted.
Yet this document from the Center for Disease Control points out some rather interesting statements about the HPV vaccine:
- The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls 9-12 years. This ensures that they get protected from HPV before their first sexual contact.
- Catch-up HPV vaccine is recommended for girls 13-26 years, who have not yet been vaccinated. The vaccine will not “kill” existing HPV infections (if there is an infection to speak of), but can ward off other possible diseases caused by other strains of HPV.
More information about the vaccine is explained in the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Here’s a vaccine called Gardasil, manufactured by Merck; the prescribing sheet can be downloaded here.
Vaccines are preventative measures, which means that if you would risk exposure to the virus in question, you would be protected from a possible infection. Vaccines are not cures. This is the reason why you get vaccines when you’re still a child: all the flu shots in the world will not cure you of flu if you already have it before. The same thing is true for HPV: while the Belo group is right in saying that Pap tests and regular screening are very important in controlling and managing cervical cancer, their advertising is very vague on:
- Who should get the test;
- When should a woman take the test, and;
- How that test is administered.
These are parts of basic medical diagnosis, and prudence in the practice of medicine.
In these instances, I think that medical groups and companies should be very transparent on the products they’re selling, especially if a better-safe-than-sorry logic is used to justify vaccination, no matter how expensive it can get. Of course it has something to do with serious business and advertising; that’s why you have to call up the clinic, visit the site, or visit them.
Yet I know very little of medicine, and I’m not an expert on it; it’s just that too many things do not compute. I don’t need to get this vaccine, if only because I don’t have a cervix. I just want more clarity and transparency from a regimen that’s supposed to save lives. I’m not against vaccine if there is a solid, long-term basis for it; I’m just for a more transparent way of marketing pharmaceutical products in the medical profession.
If you’re looking at a less-than-transparent view of something as serious as cervical cancer, you’re not promoting interest and awareness at all. Instead, you’re promoting the interests of a business. I just hope it doesn’t turn out that way for the millions of Filipino women who are at risk of cervical cancer.
* – Picture from the Facebook page of the Belo Medical Group