Bonnie Diraimondo has spoken out about HPV related cancers for more than 20 years. Now her voice will be heard by an international audience of top medical experts as the first patient asked to speak at the International Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Conference. Diraimondo was invited to speak during the opening ceremonies in Berlin, Germany on September 17, 2011.
"This is truly an honor to have been chosen by the committee for such a prestigious event," she told EmpowHER. "I am glad to see them incorporating the patient's side of HPV into the mix of researchers, scientists, physicians and others from the medical community."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, HPV is associated with multiple forms of cancer, including:
• Cervical cancer: The most common HPV-associated cancer. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV.
• Vulvar cancer: About 40 percent are linked to HPV.
• Vaginal cancer: About 70 percent are linked to HPV.
• Penile cancer: About 40 percent are linked to HPV.
• Anal cancer : About 85 percent are linked to HPV.
• Cancers of the head and neck are mostly caused by tobacco and alcohol, but recent studies show that about 25 percent of mouth and 35 percent of throat cancers may be linked to HPV.
As a registered nurse, Diraimondo was trained to understand the link between HPV - the most common sexually transmitted infection - and cancer. As a patient, she has survived cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva, and continues to deal with recurrences of anal cancer. She stays current on research developments, and educates both the public and clinicians on managing HPV, research, preventive measures, treatment options and more.
She's found that many health websites, and even providers, have inaccurate or incomplete information about HPV. "It is discouraging that, even after the 20 years following my initial HPV diagnosis, that many women who I speak with still know very little about HPV. In fact, I learned from first-hand experience that many doctors and nurses often know very little too! "
Diraimondo decided to share her own personal experiences - as well as her knowledge gained from her nurse's training - to educate others about HPV and the link it has to cancer. She is a vocal advocate for HPV testing and vaccination, and is featured on the website for the digene HPV test. She blogs about HPV and cancer for EmpowHER.com and also contributes expert information to the women's health site's community when readers ask questions about HPV and cancer.
Additionally, she has written and published a book titled Any Mother's Daughter, an autobiographical account of her experiences as well as information on the various types, grading and potential complications of HPV. The book includes current information patients seek about diagnosis, treatments, procedures and other factors to understand how to deal with an HPV related cancer. The book is endorsed by German virologist and professor emeritus Harald zur Hausen who received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2008 for his research leading to the discovery of HPV as the cause of cervical cancer. Any Mother's Daughter is also recommended by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation and used in their public education campaign.
Another form of Diraimondo's advocacy work is the website and online support system provided through the HPV Support Network. The non-profit organization's mission is to "dispel the myths and disseminate the facts on this very prevalent but sorely misunderstood virus." The site includes information on HPV basics as well as HPV related cancers. While the primary focus is on women's health, there is also a section specifically for men.
Diraimondo says the site has been certified as providing accurate medical information to assure those who visit of the validity of the documentation and information listed there. She hopes the site will "be a valuable resource for women (especially the newly diagnosed), men and health care providers." For more information on the HPV Support Network visit http://www.anymothersdaughter.com.
CDC HPV Resource Center:
HPV Support Network: