If you could prevent your child from getting cancer, what would you do?

If you could prevent your child from getting cancer, what would you do?

You have the power to prevent cancer your child could get later in life

The dog days of summer are upon us and my family of six has spent countless days at the pool, baseball games and summer camps. Now a new school year is starting, and it’s a good time to make sure our children are up to date on their check-ups with the doctor, dentist and optometrist. As a parent of kids ranging in ages from eight to 13, this year also included discussions about the importance of getting the HPV vaccine for cancer prevention.

What is HPV, and how does it lead to cancer?

HPV stands for the human papillomavirus. It includes a group of more than 150 related viruses. Some types of HPV can cause warts or papillomas, which are non-cancerous. Most of the time our body’s natural immune systems can fight off the infections the virus can cause. But, some types of HPV cause cancer in both men and women. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), HPV causes most cases of cervical cancer, and nearly all cases of pre-cervical cancers. It also causes many vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, throat and tongue cancers.

As I began to learn more about HPV, I found myself wondering how common is the virus. What I found was astounding:

  • Each year in the United States 31,500 people are diagnosed with a cancer related to an HPV infection.
  • The virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Any man or woman who has ever had sex, including vaginal, anal or oral, can get the virus.
  • Four out of five people will have HPV at some point in their lives, according to the latest estimates. The virus is so common that the best way to prevent an HPV infection is to get vaccinated.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

This is the first thing I wanted to know after hearing about this cancer prevention vaccine! I felt comforted knowing that more than 270 million doses have been given around the world since 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As a registered nurse, I understand any vaccination has potential side effects. Yet many people who get the HPV vaccine report no side effects. Potential side effects of the HPV vaccine have been mild like other vaccines. The HPV vaccine is approved by the CDC, and like all vaccines, receives ongoing monitoring.

So how can I prevent cancers that my kids could get later in life?

As a cancer nurse navigator and a mom of four children, I was very interested in the current recommendations to prevent HPV related cancers. I started by having a conversation with our family doctor. I learned my kids could receive the two series vaccination (six-12 months apart), as early as age nine or ten. The CDC highly recommends kids be vaccinated at ages 11 or 12, as that is when the vaccine has been shown to be the most effective. If a child starts the vaccination series between the ages of 15-26, a third vaccination is recommended.

The HPV vaccine prevents infections from nine HPV types that cause HPV cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, receiving the vaccine before being exposed to the virus can prevent up to 90% of HPV cancers!

As I was making doctor’s appointments for my kids, my almost 11-year-old son openly shared his disgust in having yet another “shot” scheduled with his upcoming appointment. This brought up a great moment to have a conversation about the purpose of this vaccine in preventing certain cancers later in life. He has heard many of my stories over the years of people struggling with cancer. He asked several great questions about the vaccine, and I didn’t hear him complain again.

A week later his sister was giving him a hard time that he was the ONLY kid who needed a shot this year. He promptly responded, “I’d rather have a two-second sting than a cancer that I didn’t need to have!” Proud mom moment!

I have had the personal experience of caring for patients with HPV related cancers. With this new cancer prevention vaccine, I feel so lucky to live during a time where these types of cancers could be greatly reduced or even eliminated in my kids’ generation!

My suggestion for parents is to talk with your child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine, and to your children about why “another shot” is so important. For more information, check out the links below.

www.cancer.org/hpv

www.cdc.gov/hpv

*Information for this blog provided by American Cancer Society.

Carmen Orr

Carmen Orr

RN, Cancer Nurse Navigator

Carmen Orr is a Bryan Medical Center oncology nurse navigator, which is a  specially trained nurses who are here to help you and your family through each step of your cancer journey.

How Important is the HPV Vaccine?

Listen to our podcast with Dr. Philip Boucher, a pediatrician with Lincoln Pediatric Group, to learn more about the importance of the HPV vaccine, research done on its effectiveness and tips on talking to your child about why they are getting the vaccine.

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Could an Ongoing Cough or Chest Cold Be Asthma?

Could an Ongoing Cough or Chest Cold Be Asthma?

I often see patients in my office who are dealing with a cough or chest cold that won’t go away or returns repeatedly. With these symptoms, I consider if my patient might have asthma.

People are often surprised when I mention my concerns for asthma because they haven’t thought of this. Their symptoms make them think of other illnesses, but not asthma. It is true that asthma symptoms can often be similar to other illnesses.

Symptoms of Asthma

  • Persistent cough or chest congestion
  • A cold that simply will not go away or that lasts many weeks
  • Symptoms that seem to reoccur every now and then on an ongoing basis, or may be related to the season such as cold weather, an infection or activities such as exercising
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath or chest tightness

Medical History: The First Step to Uncovering Asthma

When I see patients with these symptoms, we perform a careful medical history. We determine if other diagnoses—such as lung disease, cardiac disease, chronic sinus disease and acid reflux—can be excluded because symptoms of these diseases may mimic asthma.

We discuss:

  • Their cough
  • Other symptoms they may experience, such as shortness of breath or chest tightness
  • Whether or not they wheeze
  • Symptoms of chest colds where people develop upper respiratory infections, which seem to always go straight to their chest and may last several weeks or even months

Often, these patients have been treated in the past for these symptoms with multiple cycles of antibiotics. These symptoms continue to occur over a number of years or may fail to improve, and patients become tired of dealing with this and are referred to me by their provider because of the persistent nature of their symptoms.

How to Test for Asthma

There are several tests that can help determine if a patient has asthma. These include:

  • Pulmonary Function Testing or Spirometry: This is a test where you forcibly exhale into a device that measures airflow over time. The values of the test (or ratios) are then used to determine whether or not you have an airflow obstruction, which is a characteristic of asthma. If mild airflow obstruction is found, patients are given a medication or bronchodilator to see if this will reverse the symptoms. If the symptoms can be reversed, this would indicate asthma
  • Challenge Test or Methacholine Challenge Test: This is a test to see if this reverses symptoms
  • Lab Tests: These tests look for eosinophils or IgE level, which play a role in inflammatory asthma
  • Chest X-Rays: These are helpful to rule out other illnesses, such as lung disease, fluid around the lung, congestive heart failure, infections and other diseases
  • Allergy Testing

While one test cannot completely diagnose asthma, an evaluation of your history combined with tests can lead to an asthma diagnosis.

If a patient is diagnosed with asthma, education is important. Patients need to understand that asthma is a condition that does not just go away. Although this can be discouraging for patients, as a doctor, it is rewarding to let patients know we can offer treatment to really minimize their symptoms.

How to Treat Asthma

Options include:

  • Inhaler therapy, especially with the use of an inhaled corticosteroid, which reduces inflammation and minimize asthma symptoms
  • Medication (either alone or combined with an inhaler)
  • New therapies are available for patients with moderate to severe asthma, which can significantly improve asthma symptoms and quality of life

Next Steps For Those with Asthma Symptoms

If you have a persistent cough, wheezing or repeated chest colds, you may want to consider if this could be asthma and talk to your doctor. At Bryan Health, we have a new Asthma Clinic that can:

  • Evaluate symptoms
  • Provide needed testing
  • Recommend effective treatment options and education, if needed
John Trapp, MD

John Trapp, MD

Health Expert

John Trapp, MD, is a pulmonologist with Nebraska Pulmonary Specialties.

Explore Your Options at Bryan Health

To learn more about the Bryan Asthma Clinic and schedule an evaluation, call 402-481-8901 or visit the link below.

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