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Woman pleads for Utahns to get HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer

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SALT LAKE CITY — January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and about 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.

Dr. Jonathan Grant, a radiation oncologist at Intermountain Healthcare, says the main cause of cervical cancer is long-term infection with the human papillomavirus.

“Cervical cancer is unique in that it is one of the few cancers simulated by viruses.

There is now a vaccine, the HPV vaccine, that helps prevent this disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, the incidence of cervical cancer decreased by 65% ​​from 2012 to 2019 after young women were vaccinated against HPV for the first time.

“The HPV vaccine has been one of the big success stories over the last 10 to 20 years,” said Grant.

West Valley resident Marianne Peterson, 40, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2021.

“I felt like I was floating. Being diagnosed with cervical cancer was surreal,” she said.

Her last two Pap smears recurred with abnormal cells and she began bleeding profusely a month before her next annual checkup.

Grant said it was a sign of cervical cancer. She immediately started chemotherapy and radiation.

“I’ve never felt so sick in my life,” she said.

However, she continued to battle the disease.

“Mainly being here was taking care of the kids and the dogs, but mostly my kids,” Peterson said.

Peterson is now cancer free and enjoys camping with family and friends.

She said she would have had the vaccine had it been available when she was younger. “If there was a vaccine that would reduce the risk of contracting this disease, I think it would be an absolute no-brainer,” Peterson said.

Grant says the HPV vaccine is recommended for presexually active boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 26.

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Ayanna Likens

Ayanna Likens is an Emmy Award-winning Special Projects Reporter for KSL-TV.

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