Imagine we could prevent cancer with a vaccine

Imagine you have cancer. Imagine hearing the words. You have cancer.

Imagine telling your loved ones. See the pain in their faces. Watch the tears roll down their cheeks.

Imagine sitting in a small room while your doctor tells you about treatment. The procedures. The side effects. It’s too much information to process in such a small room.

Imagine being scared before you start treatment and even more frightened once it starts.

Imagine your anxiety as you wait to hear the results. You feel that anxiety every single time.

Imagine the relief when you hear, “You are stable” or “No evidence of disease.”

Imagine the fear when a minor pain makes you question, “Is the cancer back?” Imagine knowing that your cancer could come back at any time.

Imagine the horror when it does.

Now imagine you never had cancer. Imagine something prevented it. Something prevented the pain. The torture. The heartache. Something erased your scars. Preserved your fertility. Lifted the strain on your relationships.

Imagine something literally saved your life.

The reality is that we don’t have to imagine. There is a vaccine that prevents some types of cancer. A vaccine that helps your body develop immunity against high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes nearly all cervical and anal cancers, most oropharyngeal cancers (e.g., throat), and is responsible for some penile cancers. Had the vaccine been available when I was young, I wouldn’t have gotten cervical cancer.

While it’s true that most cases of HPV don’t lead to cancer, when it does, it causes waves of damage for cancer patients and those surrounding them.

Vaccines carry risks although they are extremely rare. Drugs aren’t without risk, even though many of us take acetaminophen or ibuprofen when in pain, without thinking twice or penicillin when we have strep throat. The benefits far outweigh the risks. A similar sentiment can be applied to seatbelts. In most cases they save our lives, but in rare cases, they injure us. The benefits still outweigh the risks. For most people, the benefits of a vaccine outweigh the risks.

Imagine knowing all of this, while looking at your son or daughter, who now tells you that she has cancer and you could have prevented it through a vaccination.

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