Every year, 7,897 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,052 of them die from the disease. According to experts, while cervical cancer can be prevented, many still do not survive it. It is considered the second leading cause of death from cancer among women in the country.

That is why one of the missions of the Department of Health (DOH), medical experts, local government units (LGUs), and some private institutions is to provide protection to Filipinos from the disease caused by the deadly Human Papillomavirus or HPV.

Symptoms of HPV vary for men and women. Common symptoms of HPV in women include abnormal bleeding during sexual intercourse, heavier menstruation, and irregular bleeding. For men, they may develop genital warts on their genitals and anus.

There are times when a strong immune system can fight the virus to make it disappear on its own, but this does not happen frequently.

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There are 14 types of HPV that have been identified as potential causes of cancer, including anal cancer, penile cancer, oropharyngeal cancer in men, and vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, and cervical cancer in women.

Studies have shown that cervical cancer typically affects women aged 15 to 44 years old. As mentioned, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the Philippines. 99% of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV. It usually starts in the cervix or the opening of the uterus from the vagina.

Dr. Alferez clarified that having HPV does not automatically lead to cancer. But regular screenings, such as a pap smear, are necessary, especially if you experience symptoms of HPV.

HPV Vaccine

HPV vaccination is crucial to protect against cervical cancer and other serious diseases. That is why health institutions such as the DOH, LGUs, and MSD in the Philippines have joined forces to create programs to combat HPV. This includes providing free vaccines to youth aged 9 to 14 years old. “The earlier we get the vaccine, the better,” said Dr. Alferez.

Children aged 9 to 14 years old must complete the primary series of HPV vaccination, which consists of two vaccines. The second vaccine is usually given six to twelve months after the first vaccine. Older individuals aged 15 years and above need to complete three doses of HPV vaccines. Once all the required doses are completed for your age, there is no need for additional HPV vaccination because the vaccine provides lifelong protection. It’s that simple.

Mayor Arth Marasigan of Sto. Tomas Batangas also became part of the Pamilya Talk episode. He highlighted their school-based immunization program as part of their city’s 12-point program, prioritizing the health of their residents.

Launched on November 18, 2022, Sto. Tomas, Batangas introduced its latest project, part of the school-based immunization program – “Sa aking paglaki, walang HPV” (As I grow up, no HPV). The project aims to provide free HPV vaccines to their students. Mayor Marasigan added that Sto. Tomas City is the first city in their province to implement such a project.

Students in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, are being vaccinated against HPV as part of the LGU’s school-based immunization program.

Unity Against HPV

Thanks to the program, Mayor Marasigan realized the importance of multisectoral or multistakeholder collaboration between the government and private institutions. Their joint efforts in implementing health programs strengthen the community.

As a journalist, I have come across numerous stories of Filipinos dying from various diseases. Often, these are diseases that could have been prevented if they had enough information and opportunities for treatment.

As they say, ‘prevention is better than cure.’ That’s why I myself have long been vaccinated against HPV. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated as well. This is not only for ourselves but also for our loved ones who we want to be with for a longer time.

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