Dana-Farber's HPV and Related Cancers Outreach Program is a cancer prevention initiative to reduce the HPV-Related Cancer burden in our community through education and vaccination.
Six types of cancer in men and women are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus has over 100 different types (strains), some of which are high-risk because they have the potential to cause cancer. The high-risk strains of HPV can lead to cervical, head and neck, anal, penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. There are 42,700 HPV-related cancers in the U.S. each year.
HPV-related cancers have increased by 225 percent in the past 20 years, with a rapid rise in head and neck cancers in men. In fact, there are now more men with oropharyngeal cancer than women with cervical cancer. Fortunately, these cancers can be prevented with vaccination, screening, and early detection.
New HPV-Related Cancers Each Year in the U.S.
Oropharyngeal Cancer (Men) 14,814
Cervical Cancer (Women) 11,866
Anal Cancer (Women) 4,333
Vulvar Cancer (Women) 3,934
Oropharyngeal Cancer (Women) 3,412
Anal Cancer (Men) 2,197
Penile Cancer (Men) 1,269
Vaginal Cancer (Women) 846
Along with all 70 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers, Dana-Farber is committed to the shared goal of eliminating HPV-related cancers. Because the vaccine prevents HPV infections that may lead to cancer, the six related cancers could eventually be eliminated if most people are vaccinated. Our public health-oriented program targets specific, nationwide health goals set by the federal government's Healthy People 2020 program and the NCI. The shared goals are:
- Educate parents, guardians, health care providers, and community members about the goal to eliminate HPV-related cancers
- Increase vaccination rates to 80 percent for males and females (ages 9-26)
- Endorse clear and strong cancer-prevention recommendations for vaccination and cancer screening
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 45. In October 2018, the FDA approved the expanded age range for the vaccine from 9-26 to 9-45 years old, and it is expected that this will be incorporated into health insurance plans within one year of the FDA approval. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the CDC recommend Tdap, meningococcal, flu and HPV vaccine for all children 7 or older. View the complete vaccine schedule.
Education and Vaccination
The outreach program is designed to address common barriers to vaccination including medically accurate and culturally appropriate information and access to health resources. Our curriculum has been proven to increase medically accurate knowledge of HPV and related cancers, intention to be fully vaccinated, and comfort level discussing the topic with others. The curriculum is delivered as a workshop and is tailored to be culturally appropriate for the audience, including: young adults, parents and guardians, community health and education professionals, and medical and dental professionals.
Over 2,000 people have been educated through workshops with the City of Boston and the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Public Schools, youth-serving organizations, Area Health Education Centers organizations, and faith-based and other community-based organizations. Health care professionals have been educated at national conferences and regional events.
Despite having higher HPV vaccination rates than the national average, Massachusetts lags far behind the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80 percent coverage (see the CDC's Vaccination Coverage Report for the most up-to-date information). Depending on age, either two or three doses are needed for full vaccination. For children ages 9-14, only two doses are needed, and for anyone 15-45, three doses are needed. 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.