Video Series Brings Cancer Prevention into Focus
The Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Health released a series of public education videos to alert the public about the danger of HPV and the opportunity for prevention of HPV-related cancers by immunization.
Almost everyone will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime, but for some, the outcome can be deadly. Joan Ackley shares the story of her daughter, Kristen, an Essex County resident, who was diagnosed with HPV-related oral cancer at age 31. Ms. Ackley describes watching her daughter suffer through unbearable pain from her cancer and treatments, and then pass away four years later. When Kristen was physically able during her treatment, she was a strong advocate for the HPV vaccine and shared her story to raise awareness of this preventable disease. Since Kristen’s death, Ms. Ackley continues Kristen’s mission and shares her story to educate others in hopes of preventing cancer deaths.
Approximately 1,900 people in New Jersey are diagnosed with HPV cancers every year. These deaths are mostly preventable. The HPV vaccine is extremely effective at preventing related cancers when administered prior to exposure to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that HPV infections and cervical precancers have dropped significantly since the vaccine has been in use and among vaccinated women, the percentage of cervical cancer has dropped by 40%. HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of the 35,000 cases of HPV cancers we see diagnosed in the US every year.
The HPV vaccine series is routinely recommended for 11-12 year old boys and girls to provide the best protection against HPV cancers. According to the NJ Department of Health Data Brief on HPV, only 39.1% of NJ adolescents ages 13-15 have completed the HPV series, meaning that 6 out of 10 NJ youths remain unprotected from these preventable cancers.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about HPV and vaccinations. With this project, we hope to highlight the dire risk of HPV and practical steps the public can take to prevent cancer,” stated Ilise Zimmerman, President & CEO of the Partnership.
This project was generously funded by the New Jersey Department of Health. “The Department is proud to partner in this effort to highlight the importance of preventing HPV-associated cancers through vaccination, said Dr. Christina Tan, State Epidemiologist and NJDOH Assistant Commissioner. “The vaccine is safe, effective, and a powerful tool for protecting the health of New Jersey’s future generations.”
In addition to Kristen’s story, the videos feature Natasha Coleman, MPH, Senior Director, State and Primary Care Systems, American Cancer Society; Joseph Schwab, MD, MPH – Pediatrician and Associate Professor, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the CDC’s 2019 Childhood Immunization Champion for New Jersey; Gara Sommers, MD, OBGYN Oncologist, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center; Christina Tan, MD, MPH, State Epidemiologist, New Jersey Department of Health; and Ilise Zimmerman, President & CEO, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey.