The theory of preventative care, including inoculations, is that we spend a little money now to offset big expenses later in life. But sometimes behavioral friction keeps this from happening, even when the technologies and approaches are proven. We are witnessing such a failure right now with regard to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Here’s the story, from MGH’s James Michaelson, PH.D., arguably one of the most thoughtful, trustworthy, and sensible researchers in the field of analysis of cancer survival. Jim and his team develop sophisticated mathematical methods for predicting the risk of local, regional, and distant recurrence. He says:
There are a couple of good papers about Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and the coming epidemic (yes, an overused term, but truly applicable here) of head and neck cancer. As Chaturvedi et al say in a recent paper: “If recent incidence trends continue, the annual number of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers is expected to surpass the annual number of cervical cancers by the year 2020.”
I get to see this problem from two angles: From my work as the the manager of the MGH/MEEI Head and Neck Cancer Database, and from my experiments in using computer telephone messages to get patients in for preventive health services, such as the fabulous HPV Vaccines: Cervarix (from GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (from Merck). The vaccines are incredibly underutilized. Only about 1% of eligible boys and only 50% of eligible girls get one shot. Only about 25% of girls get all three shots.