HPV Causes Cancer Scare

I am a healthy mother of two nine-year old twin girls, and I have been married for 15 years.

Two and a half years ago, after a routine pap smear test, I learned I had pre-cancerous dysplasia caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which, if not treated, could lead to cervical cancer. My doctor explained that I probably contracted HPV years ago.

The cancerous cells were successfully removed during an outpatient procedure called a cone biopsy, but the experience scared me. How could something so serious and potentially deadly be lingering in my body for so many years? I had always considered myself a cautious and careful person, so it was difficult to grasp that I might have done something to put my health at risk. I felt a stigma attached to this because the virus is transmitted sexually; however I am fully aware that anyone can unknowingly get HPV, even people in long-term, committed relationships.

During a checkup following the procedure, I asked my gynecologist what she thought about the HPV vaccine recommended for adolescent girls that was headlining the news. She shared that she also had a young daughter and was weighing a decision about vaccination. She felt we were both lucky because we could wait several years to see how the vaccine did before making the decision for our daughters.

Now that my girls are nine, I know I need to consider the implications of my experience for my daughters. My decision to vaccinate them is just a few years away. Thinking about HPV in relation to my children sheds quite a different light on my experience and how I can protect them.

While my twin girls have received all the recommended vaccines available, deciding about the HPV vaccine seems to involve a separate set of considerations. As with anything that is relatively new, I want to know about potential medical risk factors, if any. And then there’s the fact that I would be vaccinating my kids to help prevent an infectious disease that is transmitted sexually—not your typical parental vaccine decision like the chickenpox vaccine. But all things taken into consideration, I know protecting my kids, if I have the ability to do so, is the most important thing.

Please note: This mother has chosen to remain anonymous.