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Bachmann Offends HPV Cancer Survivors: An Editorial

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

Michele Bachmann, U.S. Representative and GOP presidential candidate has offended not only women but cancer survivors with comments she made during a political debate earlier this month.

Bachmann’s comments were based on the current vaccine Gardasil which in her words “results in mental retardation.” She continues to stand by her comments despite the fact that this is disputed by experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Gardasil, approved by the FDA in 2006, reduces the risk of the two highest cancer causing strains of the HPV virus. It has long been known that HPV is responsible not only for cervical cancer but also vaginal, vulvar and anal cancer as well as penile. Recent research now shows its role in 75 percent of oropharyngeal cancers as well.

While she may attempt to sidestep her comments by stating that she is not a doctor or a scientist, she has perhaps done far more damage with her comments than if she had been. Bachmann said she “made no conclusions regarding the drug one way or the other,” which contradicts her conclusion that it resulted in mental retardation.

It is just this type of uneducated comment made by Bachmann that has mothers questioning, if not outright refusing, the HPV vaccines for their children. Perhaps Bachmann needs a history lesson herself before she attempts to make history as this country’s first female president.

Cervical cancer, which today affects approximately 12,000 American women a year, has been reduced by 70 percent since the implementation of cervical screening guidelines in addition to the development the HPV test which has allowed for early intervention and treatment.

However these interventions are not without physical and/or psychological damage. They can require mutilating surgery and in some instances result in a woman’s loss of fertility. It continues to be responsible for half a million cancers per year globally with approximately 250,000 deaths.

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