20 million mind-blowing statistics about HPV and cancer

Low-Grade SIL with HPV Effect

I have cervical cancer and HPV

I speak out often about the stigma that is related to cervical cancer and its many forms. The hype of HPV I have is high-risk and is not related to warts or any outward signs. My HPV causes serious dysplasia inside my cervix, which causes tumors, carcinoma in situ and many more complications, (including infertility, breakthrough bleeding and severe pain.) It’s not the pain or the fear that I live with most of all, it’s the stigma of this sidelined disease. I have heard time and time again, HPV being marginalized as a strictly-sexual disease, brought on by promiscuity and deviance. I have battled cervical cancer multiple times and my heart is heavy from hearing names from my survivor group of those that have passed on, or entered hospice care. In speaking nationally for cancer organizations and on Capitol Hill, I know one thing is certain, we must stand for a cure while helping to educate others. Recently, Minnesota Women’s Press featured my story in an article, “Cervical Cancer does not define me.”

I started asking questions a few years ago around funding and cervical cancer. I realized, the answers went far deeper than why cervical cancer was a combination of under-tested, under-reported and under-funded. Cancer.gov states in 2010, $76.5M was spent on cervical cancer funding. (In comparison, this is a very small number, given the amount of women and men affected.)

“The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) investment in cervical cancer research decreased from $83.3 million to $70.8 million between fiscal years (FY) 2006 and 2009 before increasing again to $76.5 million in FY 2010. In addition, NCI supported $14.3 million in cervical cancer research in FY 2009 and 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).” (Source: Cancer.gov)

HPV and cervical cancer matter

I realized only a short-while later that the golden ticket answer wasn’t in cervical cancer funding, (although important,) it was in HPV funding. In fact, did you know, HeLa cells were directly taken from Henrietta Lacks, a woman with cervical cancer and HPV? Because of Henrietta’s disease and unknowing sacrifice, many studies became available, including Leukemia, Influenza and numerous vaccines have been developed to help the world’s population. (An infographic from Wired.com shows the incredible uses of the HeLa cells, controversy withstanding.) With the rise of certain types of cancers, it’s hard to understand why the CDC and cancer.gov continue to report that “most cases of HPV go away on their own.” If this is true, how could the cancer statistics be so high, when in direct relation to the HPV virus? You could say, I’m fascinated by the lack of respect HPV is given, especially due to the devastation it is causing in America, alone. This is not to mention the complete misinformation that is scattered about HPV-related cancers being, “rare.”

Also, there is a SIGNIFICANT lack of credible information about HPV and cancer on the web. One of the biggest perpetrators may surprise you. The American Cancer Society can’t even identify cervical cancer correctly, calling it instead, “cervix cancer.” The whole article on their site had my head spinning. (But yes, please give them more donor dollars, because they are obviously doing such a great job.)

Twenty million people

The most powerful statistic I’ve seen is just in the continental US, (where HPV is widely under-reported and under-diagnosed, especially in minority-populations,) that 20 MILLION men and women are currently infected with HPV.

“Thanks to HPV, just about everyone has a sexually transmitted infection these days. About 20 million Americans are currently infected with one or more strains of the virus. Six million more are infected each year. If you have sex, you’re more likely than not to get it before you die. Forty percent of women will contract it within just 16 months of their first vaginal intercourse. And the virus’ proliferation has complicated Americans’ moral judgments concerning sexual activity. The ubiquity of HPV has democratized sexual stigma—the virus infects people of all races, classes, and sexual orientations. If contracting a virus from sex is the norm, it makes it more difficult to dismiss people with STIs as moral degenerates or irresponsible sluts.” {Source: Good.is}

Perspective on funding and related cancers

I wanted to put into perspective how much in funding was given to diseases and how many people currently living with different diseases were infected, considering that each year 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, alone with over 4,000 dying. My guess before spending the last few weeks combing through data was that HPV would have the smallest amount of funding, with some of the largest numbers of those infected. Who is receiving cancer funding from the NCI, (National Cancer Institute and Cancer.gov?) Here is an abbreviated list:

Cancer Type2008 Spending
(in millions)
2009 Spending
(in millions)
2010 Spending
(in millions)
Lung$247.6$246.9$281.9
Prostate285.4293.9300.5
Breast572.6599.5631.2
Colorectal273.7264.2270.4
Bladder24.125.922.6
Melanoma110.8103.7102.3
Non-Hodgkin
Lymphoma
122.6130.9122.4
Kidney43.445.244.6

(Please, keep in mind this is ONLY the government’s funding to cancer as reported to cancer. gov.) Susan G. Komen for the Cure, raked in $357,832,083 in FYE 2011. (Treating cancer is very profitable. I always keep this in mind.)

As you can see, both Lung and Colorectal cancers were high on the list. However, Cervical Cancer and other HPV-related cancers, (specifically the more “sexually-viewed” ones,) were quietly left to fend for themselves. Cervical Cancer, and HPV are an after-thought to the sexualized “breast” cancer phenomenons, (don’t even get me started.) The above numbers seem alarmingly off, when 20M people have the HPV virus, which directly leads to over 10 types of cancers, (just that we know of.) The statistics surrounding HPV are sobering. With over 100, different strains, HPV can compromise the immune system and according to cancer.gov, the disease can hide for over a decade within the body. In fact, cancer.gov cites the following number of cancers are caused by HPV:

(Most damning of all, according to the CDC, recent studies show that about 60% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) are linked to HPV.)

Let’s do some math

The numbers surrounding HPV-related cancers might make your head spin. If we take the above digits, knowing that we have the percentages of cancers that are affected by HPV and the amount of people diagnosed, we can find a starting sum to really analyze the impact HPV has on our population. Just looking at anal-related cancers, it’s easy to see how marginalized HPV truly is. The ASCRS, (American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons,) only state in passing that HPV is related to anal cancer, although it’s been proven on cancer.gov and hundreds of studies that the connection is 90%. Smoking, is given its own bullet point, while HPV is simply just mentioned. However, the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation wasn’t afraid to cite more about the research regarding the link between the diseases.

Nearly 75% of sexually active people in the United States will have a genital HPV infection at some point in their lives.” (Source: Anal Cancer Foundation)

With 90% of anal and colo-rectal cancers being cited as HPV-related, and knowing that the SEER index cited the number of population affected by anal cancer was 1.7 out of 100,000 individuals, it’s easy to see that something is getting lost both in the funding and education of HPV and it’s corresponding effects.

Funding misinformation

With all this information, (and so much still left uncovered,) it’s alarming to know why so little funding is going to HPV and what minuscule amount is allotted towards vaccine development, is controversial in nature. So how much is going to HPV? I could not find ANY hard numbers to the direct funding sources for HPV, itself. Could it be because cancers deemed, “less sexy” and “less deserving” of the public’s money are silently less-funded than their non-sexual, and “blamed” counterparts? Because HPV is spread through genital contact, (among other ways,) many might feel uncomfortable giving to a disease that people, “chose,” especially given the lack of true information on many websites and pamphlets. Why do the words, “sexually active,” automatically blame those who contract a virus? Assuming most, (if not all,) of the population of the United States IS sexually active, (marriages and long-term relationships included,) the statistic which states, “75% of all sexually active people in the US will have had genital HPV infection,” should create a ripple effect, right? Or, so one would think. The main problem with HPV funding is the lack of true research on the disease, and the political machine Gardasil has become. HPV has become its own case of controversial warfare, where funding is withheld for political profit. Look no further than the debate on Planned Parenthood and HPV screening. Some politicians view Planned Parenthood as an abortion provider and nothing else. Whereas, the non-profit actually offers hpv screening and treatment to the often under-served populations and rural towns in the U.S. Instead of identifying cancer early, many without insurance go without tests or treatment, while non-profits are simultaneously attacked for helping, “promiscuous women.” Slut-shaming is a very real problem that today’s women face. As you can see, a trifecta is occuring between politics, funding and women’s health. If we don’t fund HPV research and cure methods soon, many more lives will be lost. The number is literally, incalculable.

Take a stand

You can take a stand by getting your yearly PAP smear. If your test comes back abnormal, please ask for an HPV test; the results may surprise you. Whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, you can keep most symptoms at bay by making healthy lifestyle choices: Yearly paps to diagnose, follow-up care, eating healthy foods and getting adequate rest. These are all things I speak about when discussing HPV. We are not anomalies and we can’t continue to believe that HPV and cancer happens to everyone else and not ourselves. Arm yourself with education about your risk and discuss fears with your physician. Most importantly, never be afraid to seek a second opinion. Our health is far too important to leave to the hands of someone who doesn’t know our bodies as we do.

You also have the ability to raise your voice on Twitter, Facebook and Social Media by reminding others about HPV and its devastating effects. Let your voice be heard by dialing, writing or speaking to those in political office in your area. Let your legislators know that women’s health is not simply a birth control or abortion issue, but one of human rights. While other cancers are funded at eyebrow-raising levels, (where’s the cure?) Most HPV-related cancers are hushed because of their connotation. Remember, 75% of us have HPV in our bodies at any one time, (current statistics from the CDC and NCCC state that number is as high as 85%.) HPV doesn’t “go away on its own,” it simply infects and then lays dormant. The virus never ultimately leaves your body once infected. This and many more reasons are why HPV funding is so important, now just for cervical cancer, but because this disease is affecting our population like no other.

Find out more

 This post was written by Kate Madonna Hindes and originally published on Girl Meets Geek. Follow her on Twitter: @girlmeetsgeek.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/26/2012 - 01:18 pm.

    Bitter diatribe

    While I highly commend you for bringing HPV and its related cancers into the spotlight, the tone of this blog doesn’t inspire even the most compassionate to want to care. Believe me, I know that HPV is the source of many cancers. More needs to be done to bring light to the widespread nature of the problem. It’s not one virus, either; it’s a whole family. Each with its own subtle difference, which makes it hard to prevent it, let alone treat it. That’s why the HPV vaccines were such a breakthrough. Yet, instead of focusing on how to make those vaccines safer, more effective, and more accessible, politicians, celebrities, and the mainstream media have focused on the rare problem with the vaccine, and generally suggested that only terrible parents would get their 12-year-old daughters vaccinated. And here, you only mention how little is going toward vaccine development. Wait…why not point out that there are TWO available??? It seems that you’re more than angry. I get that. Not that I can relate, since I’m not in your shoes. But instead of building on what we DO have in the way of a “cure,” you dismiss all of it and focus on the “slut-shaming.”

    I also take offense to the statement “treating cancer is very profitable.” Gah. You can’t possibly make such a statement based on research funding levels. The truth is, researching cancer is very expensive. The cells, the culture media, the equipment, the reagents, even the containers you put cells and other reagents into are $$$. Even if you ignore all of the for-profit companies that do research on cancer to, say, produce the newest drug that might just save your life or someone else’s, research is expensive. University researchers do it as frugally as they can, as they have to make grant dollars stretch to the point where they can even find something they can develop into a hypothesis about cancer, let alone anywhere close to a treatment, prevention, or cure. Very, very basic research to even understand how cancer works. And not all cancer is the same. Not even all cervical cancer. Not even all cervical cancer caused by HPV. Heck, HPV strains vary quite a bit (even if 99% of all cervical cancer is caused by HPV, some HPV strains won’t have anything to do with it, while a handful of strains do, and even they vary wildly in the effect they have on dysplasia).

    Even if you ignore the cost of research, the profit in treating cancer is necessary. After all, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers need to eat, too. And drug companies could just as well forgo putting out new drugs for cancer, as erectile dysfunction is FAR more profitable.

    That being said, feel free to pass on your dollars to organizations that directly fund cancer research rather than giant walks/runs with pink ribbons. Far more of it will actually reach the research and development benches.

    Regardless, one of the reasons that money goes to lung cancer and breast cancer rather than cervical or kidney cancer is because of the sheer number and VISIBILITY of the victims. People would rather pay for a pink or red ribbon than a bitter diatribe, in any case. Plus, it’s far easier for researchers to look at cancers that are easy to see and reach. The less researched cancers are generally rarer and/or harder to get samples of. Nowadays, in order to even keep a sample to research (which might help someone in the future), doctors and researchers have to have explicit permission. That’s a good thing, except that people are less likely to give that permission, let alone provide the tissue without trying to claim some sort of compensation in the future. When it comes to diseases, the harder it is to see (diagnose, sample, etc.), the harder it is to research. You can throw all the money you want at it, but it simply doesn’t create tissue samples at various stages out of thin air.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Rodriguez on 09/01/2015 - 09:37 pm.

    Sincere and Informative! 🙂

    First of all, thank you for you writing and research. I found it very informative and sincere. Let me be a little more blunt in response to the last comment. Cancer is a huge profit for certain labs and health networks as much as the real prevention (vacinnes) and cures are bad for their business. An engineered (weaponized in my opinion) virus that already causes cancer before engineering is the jackpot for some of these cancer networks to get huge profits of of people struggling and desperate to survive at ANY cost. Something is really suspicious in the “Anti-Vaccination” network, especially when they specifically target one vaccine such as Gardasil. People will tend to believe the propaganda against these vaccines (cures before infection) don’t understand the basic science that the vaccines are all basically the same and only mimic the virus to strengthen your immune system. People tend to think that vaccines are different drugs and there for have different risks. All a vaccine does is introduce the image of a virus “the bad guy virus” to your immune system “the virus police department” so that if anyone sees these bad guys the immunes system will know how to go about handling that yucky virus.

  3. Submitted by Kelly Brooks on 09/17/2015 - 01:05 am.

    Cervical HPV (Human PapillomaVirus)

    My name is Kelly.
    For many years, I’ve been taking Pap smears regularly, and they always return positive. I’ve never had complications, until recently. In 2014, when I visited the gynecologist for my yearly checkup, the attending clerk gave me a pamphlet that explained that HPV is one of the causes of cervical cancer, and that you can now diagnose the existence of the virus using a Pap smear, just as it has been performed until today. I was happy to perform the new test, and increase my odds for early detection. The test was no more difficult than the Pap smears I was used to, and didn’t require anything different from me. Both me and the doctor were surprised by the results. The test was negative for cancerous cells in the cervix, but positive for the existence of HPV. The doctor explained that the virus usually disappears on its own, and that there’s nothing to worry about. He recommended I returned a few months later to get myself checked again; see if the virus was still around. When I saw the doctor again, the Pap smear was abnormal. The test showed that the Papilloma was still alive and kicking. Obviously I was quite stressed.
    The doctor performed an examination of the cervix under a microscope, and took a biopsy that showed that I was harboring “precancerous cells.
    Immediately following this news, I underwent treatment with Cervugid Ovules recommended by my obgyn. First I took 3 boxes of Cervugid Ovules with break between them 7 days and after 6 months another 3 boxes. This treatment is designed to treat Cervical HPV and many vaginal infections. My next visit to obgyn resulted in a negative lab result for Cervical HPV after doing this treatment with Cervugid Ovules. Now I am free of cervical HPV infection.
    I feel lucky for catching the disease in my cervix at such an early point. And that I didn’t have to perform and complicated surgery. I could continue my normal life with the family. I am also grateful to my doctor for checking me for HPV, because otherwise I wouldn’t have returned to him, meaning the cells may have had time to become cancer until my next appointment.
    Ever since, I talk to all my friends and family about the importance of these tests. The Pap smear test is a veteran examination, but sometimes it’s not enough. They save my life, and they can save yours.

  4. Submitted by Lisa None on 12/07/2015 - 08:46 pm.

    Thank you for HPV Awareness. But, how can we stop HPV if condoms aren’t totally effective? Studies show that the transmission of HPV is mostly from foreplay. If most of the adult population has the virus, how can we stop it? Total abstinence? No foreplay?

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