Tazewell County Health Dept.



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If you were able to prevent cancer in your child, would you do it?  The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention.  It is recommended for boys and girls at 11 or 12 years of age to protect against some of the most common types of HPV that can lead to disease and cancer.  Larry wishes he had been offered the HPV vaccine, but he wants everyone to know the benefits to preventing HPV from developing into cancer.  Lesson #1 – Vaccinate your children against HPV!

Larry was 54 years old when he discovered a knot on his neck.  He went to Pekin Hospital to have it looked at by a doctor.  As a precaution, he was prescribed strong antibiotics to determine if it was caused by an infection.  After two weeks, the knot had gotten larger.  Larry’s doctor had left his practice, so Larry had to find a new doctor.  That would be lesson #2 – Have a doctor! Taking the time to find a new doctor and establishing yourself as a patient during a health scare is stressful!

His new doctor, Dr. Du, referred him to the ENT specialist at Pekin Hospital, Dr. Schinkel.  On the day of Larry’s appointment in October 2015, Dr. Schinkel performed a biopsy in her office and requested the lab staff for immediate results, which showed oropharyngeal cancer.  Oropharyngeal cancer occurs in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.

On February 1, 2016, doctors performed surgery to remove a large cancerous growth from Larry’s throat.  It was hidden behind his tonsils, so the first few scopes were unsuccessful in finding it.  His tonsils and all of his teeth were also removed and a feeding tube was inserted.  Larry would rely on the feeding tube for almost a year to keep him nourished until he was healed enough to eat on his own.  After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation followed.  The results of chemo and radiation were a 40 pound weight loss, burning when swallowing and no taste buds for over a year! 

Larry went through all of this due to a virus that causes cancer.  Throat cancers can also be caused by smoking or excessive alcohol.  Larry was not a smoker (maybe a couple times in junior high) and has only been a social drinker.  Doctors determined that Larry’s cancer was caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  Larry’s daughter turned 15 this year and he made sure that she completed the series of vaccines required to be protected from HPV and cancers. The vaccine consists of a 2-shot series if begun before the child’s 15th birthday, and can be obtained at your local health department or pediatrician’s office.

According to the World Health Organization, of the 12,638 throat cancers in U.S. males every year, 9,100 are probably caused by HPV.  HPV is a very common and widespread virus that infects both females and males.   Most sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives, and most of these cases go undetected.   Cervical cancer is the most common HPV related disease, with over 11,000 new HPV-related cancer cases diagnosed each year.  In addition to cancer, there are 330,000 women who undergo treatment for pre-cancerous cells within the cervix every year.

            For more information on the HPV vaccine or HPV cancers, visit https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/index.htm or contact Tazewell County Health Department at 309-925-5511.