Dr. Pamela Soliman
Dr. Pamela Soliman

Whether cervical cancer runs in your family or you have questions about whether your daughter should receive the HPV vaccine, a cervical cancer expert will be on hand near Ahwatukee Foothills to answer your questions next week.

Cervical cancer is a cancer at the opening of the uterus. It’s relatively uncommon compared to other diseases like breast and colon cancer, but it is a cancer where screenings and preventative measures have proven rather effective, said Pamela Soliman, a Houston-based gynecological oncologist with an M.D. Anderson and the featured speaker at next week’s Ask the Cancer Expert night presented by Banner Health.

“Since patients have had screening for cervix cancer, numbers have gone down significantly,” Soliman said. “We think with the vaccine, it will go down even further than that.” About 10,000 to 11,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. each year, Soliman said. If you look outside the U.S., it’s the second leading cause of death among women.

Many doctors believe vaccinating against the sexually transmitted disease HPV will reduce cervical cancer rates because of the strong correlation between the two diseases. Among cervical cancer patients, 95 percent also have HPV, Soliman said.

The HPV vaccine is currently approved for girls ages 9 to 26, and was recently approved for boys of the same age, Soliman said.

But even with that correlation between HPV and cervical cancer, there was controversy when the vaccine first came out.

“HPV is a known sexually transmitted disease. I think some people from a moral standpoint don’t feel comfortable vaccinating their 10-year-olds against a sexually transmitted disease,” Soliman said, adding that she hopes that controversy dies down quickly and the HPV vaccine becomes one of the normal vaccinations kids get before they go to school.

It’s most effective when given before sexual activity starts, and since no boosters are known to be needed, one series of injections should protect girls for life, Soliman said.

Also, kids are already vaccinated against things like Hepatitis B, which can also be transmitted sexually, she said.

“Giving a vaccine to a 9-year-old isn’t necessarily going to encourage them to be sexually active,” Soliman said.

The M. D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center’s Ask the Cancer Expert night on cervical cancer starts at 6 p.m. May 19 at the Embassy Suites, 4400 S. Rural Road. Anyone interested in attending is asked to reserve a spot by calling (602) 230-CARE.

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