ROCK SPRINGS — Through a combination of vaccination, screening, and treatment of pre-cancers, there is the possibility to eliminate vaccine-preventable human papillomavirus (HPV) cancers.
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County’s Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society, and statewide partners; Wyoming Cancer Resource Services, and the Wyoming Department of Health Immunization Unit, have teamed up to increase HPV vaccination rates.
HPV vaccination works best when given between the ages 9 and 12. Children and young adults age 13 through 26 who have not been vaccinated, or who haven’t received all their doses, should get the vaccine as soon as possible. An estimated eight out of 10 people will get HPV during their lives. There is no treatment for HPV infection, but vaccination and screening can prevent most HPV-related cancers.
“We are always promoting cancer prevention and awareness,” said Tasha Harris, Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center director. “I think that there are some misconceptions about the HPV vaccine, but the HPV vaccine has been proven to prevent cancer and protect our kids. I am grateful for our partnership with the American Cancer Society and their tireless efforts to help prevent cancer.”
Robyn Owens, charge nurse at Family & Occupational Medicine Clinic of Sweetwater Memorial, agreed.
“We are fortunate during our well-patient exams to be able address the needs of each patient individually,” Owens said. “This allows us to address any questions and fears that the patient, as well as the parent, may have concerning HPV and other immunizations. Information on immunizations can get confusing. We can help clear up some of the confusion on HPV or any immunization.”
The American Cancer Society is partnering with health systems across the nation to prioritize HPV vaccination through assessing baseline vaccination rates, determining appropriate interventions, and measuring progress. HPV vaccination helps protect boys and girls from 6 types of cancers, but the vaccination rate in Wyoming continues to be low. Wyoming ranks 48 out of 50 states for HPV vaccination rates among children ages 13-17, with only 30 percent of kids receiving the vaccine compared to the national rate of 68 percent.
“The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention,” said Melissa Wright, senior manager, health systems for the American Cancer Society. “There is an opportunity to increase HPV vaccine rates in Wyoming and help protect children against 6 types of cancer. The vaccination provides safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against HPV cancers, and it can prevent more than 90 percent of HPV cancers when given at the recommended ages. That translates to preventing almost 31,000 fewer US cancer diagnoses each year. It is important to take action to save lives.”
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County is dedicated to increasing HPV vaccination rates in Wyoming through improved clinical processes and systems. By participating in a year-long quality improvement project, they were able to raise HPV vaccination series completion rates in their clinics for both males and females to 43 percent, an increase of 11 percentage points.
Additionally, adolescents starting the HPV vaccine series increased by 17 percentage points during the project, from 35 percent to 56 percent. Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County is committed to protecting their community alongside their partners.
The American Cancer Society has launched a nationwide public health campaign to prevent HPV cancers through vaccination. The campaign, Mission: HPV Cancer Free, aims to increase US adolescent HPV vaccination rates to 80 percent by 2026.