There’s a strategic planning effort underway at the Indiana State Department of Health to reduce the number of cervical cancer deaths. It’s prompted by legislation from the 2017 session. The plan includes a push to increase the number of young people who get the human papillomavirus vaccine.
HPV is the single greatest risk factor for cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine can help prevent that cancer but ISDH cancer control director Keylee Wright says less than half of all youth were vaccinated in 2016.
“Just over 45 percent of Indiana teens ages 13 to 17 received at least one or more doses of the HPV vaccine,” says Wright.
When it comes to just boys, Indiana ranks last in vaccination numbers.
ISDH is working with partners throughout the state, including Witham Health pediatrician Sarah Bosslett. She says there’s a lot of misinformation.
“There’s a lot of worry about, ‘oh my gosh if we talk about this we have to talk about sex, and I’m not ready to talk about this with my preteen and if we talk about this they’re going to go have sex,’ and we know this is not the case,” Bosslet says.
Bosslet says the vaccination discussion focuses solely on cancer prevention.
“Of all the vaccines that our teens and preteens get, the HPV is the most important in my view because that’s the one that will cause cancers and death in these kids over their lifetimes,” says Bosslet.
The state plan will also focus on early detection, treatment and survivorship.
Indiana reported 1,283 new cases of cervical cancer from 2011-2015.