Early vaccination can protect against cancer

Solingen. The vaccination rate against human papilloma viruses (HPV) in Germany is still unsatisfactorily low, said Dr. Sonia van Afferden on Thursday evening at the latest health forum in the clinic cafeteria. Only 45 percent of girls are vaccinated, and even fewer for boys, as the Standing Vaccination Commission has only made a recommendation since 2018.

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Fatal, not only found this expert on the podium of the 57th event of this format, which ST editor Simone Theyßen-Speich once again moderated. With the clinic doctors Dr. Séverine Iborra, head physician at the Clinic for Gynecology and Obstetrics, and Prof. Dr. Andreas Sesterhenn, head physician at the clinic for ear, nose and throat medicine, head and neck and thyroid surgery and facial plastic surgery, had two other experts available. They explained the connections between infection with the long-underestimated human papilloma viruses and serious diseases such as cervical cancer, penile cancer, anal cancer and cancer in the oral cavity and throat area.

80 percent of all people become infected with HPV during their lifetime

Eighty percent of people will become infected with HPV during their lifetime, Iborra said. Thankfully, there are usually no serious consequences because not all subtypes are equally aggressive. “A distinction is made between so-called “low risk” forms and “high risk” forms.

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In addition, the viruses remained undetected in the body for a long time, often for decades, even though they had long since been passed on through unprotected sexual intercourse. “Sexual practices such as oral and anal intercourse carry a higher risk of infection because mucous membranes are injured more often – unnoticed – and the pathogens can penetrate more easily,” explained Sesterhenn.

Precursors to oncological diseases are often unsightly, sometimes itchy genital warts in intimate places or wounds or ulcer-like changes in the mouth and throat area. In a lively question and answer session, many aspects surrounding the HPV viruses were clarified.

What can you do to prevent cancer or its precursors?

Vaccines against the most important HPV strains have been available for several years. This means that infection with HPV can be prevented if the vaccination is carried out early.

What does early mean?

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It is best to get vaccinated before having sexual intercourse for the first time. Only then will you be completely protected against all types of HPV. Later vaccinations always carry the risk that you have now come into contact with one or another HPV virus. And vaccination no longer helps against viruses that are already in the body.

Can older, unvaccinated people still prevent getting sick?

Yes, through regular check-ups with a specialist. If precancerous lesions are discovered, they can be easily and relatively inexpensively removed surgically.

What if cancer cells are discovered?

The prognosis for cancers caused by HPV is not bad. But in addition to major surgery, chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy are used for treatment.


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