Should primary care doctors be liable for medical malpractice if they fail to discuss the HPV vaccine with parents of teenagers? HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. Because it is related to teenage sexual activity many doctors don’t discuss it with parents to avoid uncomfortable conversations with them.
A recent study published in Pediatrics shows that the HPV vaccine introduced 10 years ago is extremely effective in combating the virus and therefore in fighting cervical cancer. The study indicates that a comparison of the HPV rate between the pre vaccine period and the post vaccine period shows a decrease of two-thirds of HPV cases among girls aged 14 to 17. The decrease occurred despite a very low immunization rate of 40% among 14 to 17 year old girls and 20% for boys of the same age. The rate of HPV cases among women between 20 and 24 years old also decreased by 34%. Among women older than 25 years the rate of HPV didn’t change.
Every year 14 million people in the US are diagnosed with HPV. According to the CDC there are approximately 100 strains of this type of virus. Around 40 of them can lead to an infection of the genital areas. Most of these 40 strains will turn into benign infections but a few of them can lead to serious conditions. Some HPV strains such as types 16 and 18 can develop into oncogenic high-risk infections. These specific infections cause most cervical, penile, vulvar, vaginal, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers and precancers. Other HPV strains such as types 6 and 11 cause genital warts and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 27,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and more than 4,000 women are dying from it every year in the US. The HPV vaccine is the most effective way to fight this deadly disease. Last month, leading cancer centers in the US joined forces to promote this vaccine and encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.
Read more about it in the New York Times