Dear Dreamers
Most people, if not everyone, know about cancer but there are so many kinds of cancer out there that certain types of cancer such as cervical cancer lack awareness. There are vaccines out there to prevent an HPV infection but only a small percentage has taken it here iin the Philippines. The HPV virus can easily spread through sexual contact, and contraction of this virus can lead to the conversion of normal cells on the cervix into cancerous cells.

The Department of Health (DOH), with support from multi-stakeholder groups, recently included quadrivalent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in its school-based national immunization program to protect young girls against diseases caused by HPV infections.
The immunization initiative was previously implemented through the community-based approach. Armed with expert recommendations on the ideal model for service delivery given the target beneficiaries, the recent shift was brought by the DOH’s goal to vaccinate 720,000 young girls this year. From 20 provinces, the scope of the expanded program now spans 56 provinces and cities across the country.


The burden of HPV infection has long been a worldwide healthcare concern and still not many people know the link between HPV and cancer. Despite the availability of HPV vaccination since 2006, it is estimated that less than 5 percent of eligible Filipina womenhave availed it.

In a roundtable discussion entitled, “Bridging HPV and Cancer: Why it Matters”, medical practitioners specializing in HPV studies underscored the burden of HPV and how it can prohibit people, especially women, from having a healthy future. HPV infection causes cervical cancer which is a prolific killer and the fourth most common cancer among women across the globe.

Dr. F. Xavier Bosch, Senior Consultant to the Cancer Epidemiology Research Program (CERP) at Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) Information Centre in Spain and Dr. Sybil Bravo, Obstetrician-Gynecologist Infectious Diseases Specialist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines - College of Medicine and Philippine General Hospital shared insights on the incidence of HPV infection, the relevance of the different HPV types and their association with several cancers, and the major barriers and success stories surrounding to the prevention of HPV infection.

HPV infection is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse, but any kind of genital contact, even if it’s just the skin of the genital of an infected person, can result in transmission. It can also be spread from mother to child at birth. Many people with HPV are not symptomatic yet can infect others.

There are more than 100 types of HPV strains, of which approximately 30-40 types affect the genital area.

HPV causes virtually 100 percent of cervical cancer cases as indicated by the “Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases Report” recently published by the ICO Information Centre, which is based in Barcelona, Spain. It is also known to cause other genital cancers in both males and females.

In the Philippines, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Filipino women, next to breast cancer. Although cervical cancer screening tests are readily available for early treatment or prevention, more than 6,000 Filipinas are still diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Within five years from diagnosis, more than half of those women will die.

The quadrivalent HPV vaccine used by the DOH in its immunization program is available in more than 130 countries globally, with many countries also utilizing this as part of their national immunization programs. It covers HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18.

The other two types of HPV vaccines are the bivalent vaccine, which covers HPV types 16 and 18, and the nonavalent HPV vaccine which covers nine HPV types, including the 7 most common high-risk types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58 and the 2 most common genital warts-causing types 6 and 11.

HPV strains 16 and 18 have been specifically identified as the main cause of cervical cancers globally. Interestingly, HPV type 45 is the next most common cancer-causing type in the Philippines. Additionally, HPV strains 45, 52, 58 and 31 collectively account for approximately 21 percent of cervical cancer cases, based on the worldwide statistics culled by the ICO Information Centre.

Collectively, HPV strains 16, 18, 45, 52, 58, 31 and 33 are known to cause approximately 85 to 95 percent of anal, vulvar, and vaginal cancers. ­­­HPV strain 16 also causes 35 percent of penile cancers. Meanwhile, HPV strains 6 and 11 are the ones that cause 90 percent of genital warts cases.
The average person’s lifetime risk of contracting HPV is 75 to 80 percent. Worldwide, there are approximately 527,624 new cases of cervical cancer reported every year; 7,200 new cases of anal cancer; and 1,800 new cases of penile cancer.

Dr. Bosch highlighted the need to focus on HPV strains that local epidemiology is able to show, in order to address these appropriately with vaccination – the primary means of prevention that is readily available.

Both Bosch and Bravo emphasized the need for continued multi-sector collaboration to help achieve an HPV-free future, and further spread awareness on the threat posed by HPV and the significance of cervical cancer screening and immunization. This includes government agencies, non-government organizations, the academe, medical community, private sector, members of the media, and particularly mothers who have the primary role of helping their daughters lead a brighter future away from the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases such as cervical cancer.

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