Friday, January 23, 2009

HPV Test Plus Pap Versus Gardasil

Well, I’m in. An alternative to Gardasil. Sort of.

As a parent you’re pretty well doomed to feeling worried whatever you do about Gardasil for your daughter.

If you say yes, you’re slightly freaked about possible side effects—paralysis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, that sort of thing.

Not to mention little horrors like, oops, I guess it stopped being effective right around the time she hit the raunchy years. The doctor didn’t mention that. Or, oops, I guess some of the strains of HPV that Gardasil DOESN’T protect against got stronger in the absence of their aggressive older siblings.

Hmmm. There’s a lot of potential oopsies surrounding that expensive little series of shots.

On the other hand, I’m a sucker for commercials. ‘One Less’…doesn’t that sound, well, brave and adventuresome? Like an HBO movie about suffragettes? And if I say no, aren’t I the worst mother in the world, certain to one day find myself sobbing quietly while my daughter nobly tells me it wasn’t my fault as she departs this world? (Or comes down with a nasty case of genital warts—yikes!) After all, THIS IS THE FIRST VACCINE AGAINST CANCER, for God’s sake. Get a grip!

The decision for thinking parents has become so fraught that one mom I know quite literally put her hands over her ears when the subject came up at lunch. “Don’t tell me whatever it is,” she hissed. “We’ve already got her the shots and I just don’t want to know.”

I’ve been withholding judgment pending further research and more news from the front, but I’d more or less decided to nix it anyway. I figure cervical cancer is slow-growing and if she gets her regular Pap smears—which she will need to get anyway—she will, cross-fingers, be OK.

Now I feel even better. According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last week, if women who get an HPV-DNA test before their annual Pap test and test positive (got that?) get another test a year later, doctors can find about 30 percent more cases of cervical cancer. Add that to the low risk of HPV developing into cervical cancer, its slow growth, and the dramatic drop in risk for women who get regular Pap smears and I think I can rest assured that my kid is unlikely to get cervical cancer (as long as we have health insurance, anyway.)

Genital warts may be another matter, but we’ll work on that.

Am I being overly optimistic? What do you think?

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