Dana-Farber's HPV and Related Cancers Outreach Program uses a multi-pronged approach to prevent six types of cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus has many different strains, only some of which are high-risk, or have the potential to cause cancer. The high-risk strains of HPV can lead to cancer in men and women – including
head and neck,
vulvar cancers. In the past 20 years, HPV-related cancers have increased by 225 percent, with a rapid rise in head and neck cancers in men. Fortunately, HPV-related cancers can be prevented with vaccination, screening, and early detection.
HPV and Cancer Education
Dana-Farber staff developed two curricula to educate young adults and their parents/caregivers about HPV and its cancer connection. Each curriculum was validated in 2015 and is proven to significantly improve knowledge about HPV and related cancers; attitudes toward prevention and vaccination; and comfort level discussing HPV and the vaccine.
Each curriculum aims to:
- Describe HPV, affected population, and transmission
- Describe the HPV/cancer connection
- Identify risk factors for HPV and related cancers
- Describe HPV and related cancer prevention methods
- Discuss the HPV vaccine, safety, side effects, and schedule
- Practice speaking with parents or clinician about HPV vaccine
Dana-Farber staff members conduct workshops at local community organizations and schools. Youth and parents have participated in workshops at Sociedad Latina, the Boston Public Health Commission's Youth Peer Leadership Institute, and the Boston Public Schools.
Mobile Vaccine Clinics
Despite having higher HPV vaccination rates than the national average, Massachusetts lags far behind the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80 percent coverage, with 49 percent of girls and 27 percent of boys fully vaccinated; three doses are needed for completion. Barriers to completing HPV vaccination include lack of knowledge about HPV and related cancers; lack of knowledge about the vaccine; the inconvenience of needing three doses; and the cost of the vaccine.
To mitigate as many of these barriers as possible, Dana-Farber has partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) and Boston Public Schools to launch mobile HPV vaccine clinics. Using BPHC's School-Based Health Centers as an anchor for the clinics, Dana-Farber operates mobile HPV vaccine clinics aboard the Blum Family Resource Van. Dana-Farber nurses administer the vaccine and provide education on the van. Some key elements of the mobile clinics are:
- Convenience: During school hours, parents need not attend since the clinic comes to the patient.
- Vaccines are provided free of cost.
- Mobile clinic returns for follow-up visits at the school.
- Access to Dana-Farber health professionals throughout the year for any questions or concerns.
The mobile vaccine clinics are held after outreach has been conducted – including educational workshops, distribution of educational information, and other BPHC HPV Campaign events. The clinics have successfully enabled students to start and/or complete the vaccine series.
The vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls at 11 or 12 years old, but can be given between the ages of 9 and 26.
What is the link between cervical cancer and HPV? (video and FAQ with Dana-Farber specialists Larissa Lee, MD, Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, and Ursula Matulonis, MD)
FAQ for parents and teens, vaccine reminders, and more from Team Maureen (Team Maureen Scientific Advisor: Ursula Matulonis, MD, Dana-Farber's Gynecologic Oncology Program at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers)
CDC Vaccine Information Statement
NCI-designated centers urge HPV vaccination (collective statement of 68+ NCI-designated centers)
Boston Public Health Commission partners with school health centers to offer vaccine, promote cancer prevention (public statement)
For more information, contact our HPV Outreach Program Manager:
Sarah Gunn, MS
Senior Community Outreach Specialist, Community Benefits