Too frequently women with precursors or early forms of cervical cancer suffer unnecessary pain or loss of life as a result of medical malpractice. Meyers Evans Lupetin & Unatin has represented women and their families in lawsuits alleging various forms of medical negligence associated with the screening, diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer, including the failure to order timely Pap smears for early detection of cervical cancer; failure to treat women with Pap smears positive for early forms of cervical cancer; allowing potentially curable forms of cancer to grow and spread undetected; and improper diagnostic work-up and surgical treatment for cervical cancer. Our attorneys are often called upon to investigate whether the medical professionals who interpret Pap smear specimens, known as cytotechnologists or cytopathologists, misinterpreted or simply overlooked obvious cellular changes in cervical tissue which may represent precursors for cervical cancer.
HPV infection is a major root cause of cervical and other forms of cancer. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have HPV in their sights.
Thousands of new cancers diagnosed in the United States each year are attributable to HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to the CDC, recent studies of the U.S. population showing that 66% of cervical cancers, 55% of vaginal cancers, 79% of anal cancers, and 62% of Oropharyngeal cancers are caused by a persistent infection with HPV type 16 or 18. CDC Grand Rounds: Reducing the Burden of HPV-Associated Cancer and Disease, CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 31, 2014.
The clear evidence linking HPV infection with certain cancers has prompted the more widespread use of HPV vaccines licensed by the FDA. The vaccines are directed to HPV 16 and HPV 18. Though the vaccines do not treat existing infection, clinical trials have shown the HPV vaccine highly effective for preventing cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal pre-cancers.
In the interest of public health, the CDC recommends both boys and girls be routinely vaccinated at age 11 or 12. Girls and young women who were not vaccinated by age 11 or 12 should be vaccinated through age 26, while boys and young men should be vaccinated through age 21. The CDC also recommends vaccination for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men through age 26.
Regrettably, in comparison with other vaccinations commonly given to adolescents, including tetanus, diphtheria and Tdap, HPV vaccination has increased slowly and in fact not at all from 2011 to 2012. One strategy cited by the CDC to reverse this trend is for more school districts to add HPV vaccination to other vaccination requirements for school entry. Also, with coverage for the vaccination available through most private health insurance and government insurance programs, the CDC is encouraging health care providers to strongly recommend their patients undergo HPV vaccination and administer the vaccine when other vaccines are administered.
Approximately 79 million people in the United States are infected with HPV. Fourteen million people are infected each year. The best strategy to avoid the risk of a failure to diagnose or improper treatment of cervical and other forms of cancer is to remain cancer free. The effectiveness of HPV vaccine in preventing cervical and other forms of cancers is proven by data.
Our children, young men and women grow up too fast. Yet, whether we like it or not, young people make their own decisions about issues that will have a significant impact on their future well-being. Young people will not always make the best decisions. Perhaps that’s part of growing-up. But regardless of the path they choose, every young person deserves the best chance to live a long, healthy life. HPV vaccination of children and young people should be the norm.