Health and Lifestyle: It’s Never Too Late to Prevent HPV-Related Cancers and Diseases

What our current situation has taught us is that health is of the utmost importance. What I feel is missing in most people nowadays is the fact there are other diseases that can attack us. So aside from boosting your immunity and having a clean and healthy lifestyle, we also have to see that some diseases are actually easy to prevent. And now that the world is clamoring for the COVID vaccine, take the ones that are already for diseases that are also existing in our midst.

As the importance of vaccination takes center stage, MSD in the Philippines is doubling down against vaccine-preventable diseases through its Guard Against HPV campaign. The focus is on human papillomavirus or HPV—a very common virus that affects up to 85 percent of sexually active men and women at one point in their lives, that may cause genital warts and severe HPV-related diseases such as genital and anal cancers. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself from these HPV-related diseases.

“HPV infection can easily go unnoticed. Infections that cause genital warts or, worse, cancer, may stay hidden for several years before symptoms start to appear. By that time, it may already be too late,” said Dr. Mary Ann Galang-Escalona, Country Medical Lead of MSD in the Philippines. “That’s why for HPV-related diseases, prevention is far better than cure. Families, as well as people seeking relationships, must take every opportunity to keep safe from HPV to avoid its more serious health implications.”

Preventive steps

The Department of Health (DOH) says that HPV vaccines should be part of a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to address cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases among Filipinos. The DOH notes that HPV accounts for a majority of cervical cancer cases, and many young adults also suffer from genital warts.

In a 2019 report by the HPV Information Centre, cervical cancer ranks second among the leading types of female cancers in the Philippines, and third among the most common cancer deaths affecting Filipino women.

Alongside vaccination, sexually active women must still undergo regular pap smears to check for precancerous lesions caused by HPV, according to the DOH. These lesions may progress to cancer if not detected and treated early.

Based on DOH guidelines as per recommendation of the World Health Organization, HPV vaccination can protect children ages 9 to 13 before being exposed to the virus through sexual activity.

To ensure that adolescents receive protection against HPV and HPV-related diseases in later life, the DOH has included HPV vaccination in its school-based immunization program. Through the program, Grade 4 female learners in public schools may get the vaccine as long as they have parental consent.

“Taking steps to protect yourself isn’t only about personal safety. It’s also about protecting others, the people we care about,” Galang-Escalona said. “Vaccination reduces the number of circulating viruses in the community. This benefits everyone—especially those who are vulnerable—by lowering the risk for infections and developing serious illnesses that could have otherwise been prevented. By staying safe, we keep each other safe.”

Learn more about how to protect yourself from HPV by following MSD’s Guard Against HPV page on Facebook and Instagram.

Note to Editor: About Guard Against HPV

Guard Against HPV is an advocacy campaign of MSD in the Philippines, a member of the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). MSD strictly adheres to the PHAP Code of Practice and all applicable laws and regulations. MSD maintains high ethical standards in the conduct of all its activities including media interactions. To that end, MSD wishes to reinforce and remind you of the following principles:

  • The objective of any article published in lay media should be to increase awareness on the burden of disease, risk factors, complications, and the role of existing and future therapeutic options.
  • All articles published in lay media should provide balanced and accurate information.
  • There should be no mention of pharmaceutical brand names or any promotion of pharmaceutical products.
  • There should be no references to off-label uses of a prescription product.
  • All readers should be encouraged to consult their healthcare provider for information and guidance.

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