As Mouth Cancer Action Month (MCAM) approaches, I cannot help but ponder on the news published by HPV Action in September 2015 stating that the Government’s vaccination advisory committee (JCVI) has delayed making a decision on vaccinating boys against the Human Papilloma Virus until 2017 http://bit.ly/1Gbg3TX . This seems a ludicrous decision when considering all the evidence for HPV’s contribution to the ‘near’ epidemic in head and neck cancers. Some types of HPV are spread via intercourse and oral sex and can cause changes in the cells of the mouth and throat. These changed cells have a higher risk of becoming cancerous.
It is well known that smoking, chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol increases the risk of oropharyngeal cancer. However, a recent study by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) found that out of 1,018 patients with oropharyngeal cancer, 72.8% were positive for HPV testing.
This study puts increasing pressure on health chiefs to give the HPV vaccine that is currently offered to every girl aged 12 and 13, to boys as well. Peter Barker, Campaign Director of HPV Action, makes a hugely significant point when he states that ‘This could mean that, even if a decision is made then to vaccinate boys, it will not be implemented until 2020. Just from today until 2020, a total of over two million more unvaccinated boys are left at risk of cancer and genital warts.’
So, let’s make some noise for the boys this MCAM! If your practice is offering free oral cancer screening, invite males aged 16 and over to come to your practice and sit in the chair. Not only is an annual screening essential but raising boys’ general awareness of HPV and oral cancer as well as teaching them to self-screen could save lives. Early detection is key to saving lives and can increase the five-year survival rate from 50% to 90%.
Get the message out there by:-
• Posting notices around your practice
• Placing notices in all your local secondary schools and colleges
• Sending a press release out to local newspapers and radio stations
• Posting flyers through doors
• Handing flyers out in your local supermarkets