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Tributes have been pouring in for HPV vaccine advocate Laura Brennan, who sadly passed away at the mere age of 26 yesterday.

The people of Ireland have been honouring Laura and the mammoth efforts she went to to raise awareness about the HPV vaccine.

The campaigner will be remembered as passionate, dedicated and determined young woman whose life was taken from her far too soon.

Ryan Tubridy honoured Laura in a touching tribute on his personal Instagram account. He wrote: “I met her a number of times and walked away utterly taken aback by her verve and commitment to help people throughout her campaigning. The world will be quieter and sadder without her.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Ryan Tubridy (@instatubridy) on

DJ Louise McSharry also shared: “Really so sad to hear of the death of Laura Brennan. I can’t think of many I respect as much. Her tireless work to raise awareness of cervical cancer and the importance of the HPV vaccine undoubtedly saved many lives. RIP.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the 26-year-old’s tireless campaigning helped increase the uptake of HPV vaccine in Ireland.

"The State owes her a debt of gratitude," he stated.

The HSE confirmed that the uptake of women taking the HPV vaccine increased from 51 percent in 2017 to 70 percent today.

Laura passed away from cervical cancer at University Hospital Limerick. The young woman was surrounded by her loving family who described her as “a light in the life of everyone who knew her; a wonderful daughter, sister and friend.”

The family added: “We are lost without her."

Our thoughts are with Laura’s family and friends during this devastating time.

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In an incredible breakthrough for cancer research, a female scientist from the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) has reportedly found a complete cure for human papillomavirus (HPV).

The apparent cure would help to prevent the spread of cervical cancer among women. Dr Eva Ramon Gallegos, a Mexican scientist, claims to have eliminated the virus in 29 patients infected with HPV.

The report states that a team of researchers, led by Dr. Gallegos, treated the 29 women with non-invasive photodynamic therapy (PDT), which involves using a drug called a photosensitizer and a particular type of light to treat different areas of the body.

Dr. Gallegos had been studying the effects of photodynamic therapy for an amazing 20 YEARS to help tackle tumours such as breast and melanoma cancer, and specialised in the study of photodynamic therapy.

She treated 420 patients in Oaxaca and Veracruz, as well as 29 women in Mexico, with the technique. The repercussions from the treatment were promising; photodynamic therapy was able to eradicate the virus in all patients.

The virus was eradicated in 100 percent of those tested who carried HPV without premalignant lesions of cervical cancer using photodynamic therapy. The treatment was 64.3 percent successful in women with both HPV and lesions.

The therapy has no side effects, which is amazing as it doesn't do any damage at all to the body to have the treatment.

Dr. Gallegos said; “Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Radio Guama report.

HPV is a widespread virus from all over the world, with more than 100 variants. 14 of these variants can cause cervical cancer, a disease which is fast becoming a leading cause for death among female cancer patients.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Feature image: National Polytechnic Institute

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We hear quite a lot about the cervical cancer vaccine, and the pros and cons surrounding it.

However, we tend not to hear a whole lot about what EXACTLY the injection protects women against – the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). 

Here at SHEmazing, we want to make sure that all you fine females are well and truly 'in-the-know,' so we decided to research the virus. 

So, what exactly is HPV?

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According to The Irish Cancer Society, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) represents a family of very 'common viruses that are passed on during sex'.

Apparently, most people will get HPV infection in their lifetime and it usually clears up by itself. If you smoke, it can prevent the infection from clearing up. Some forms of the virus can also cause genital warts.

It is absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of, especially when you consider almost 75% of women will have HPV at some stage in tehir life. 

The main concern is that certain strains of HPV can ultimately turn cancerous, which is why those regular smear tests are so damn important. 

I KNOW, they're uncomfortable, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right? 

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Anyway, how exactly is HPV spread, I hear you ask? (use your imagination here.)

Basically, HPV can be transmitted during sexual intercourse or intimate skin to skin contact with an infected person, says the HSE.

'Transmission from mother to baby can also occur immediately before or after birth.'

Next question: what treatment is required?

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer (as previously mentioned)

In relation to avoiding HPV, it can be tricky – however, the HPV vaccine can protect you against certain strains of the virus. 

If you're sexually active, use condoms and you will lower your chances of getting HPV. However, HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against getting HPV. 

The most important thing is to go for regular smears, the doctor will keep an eye on the rest. 

Easy peasy! 

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When you think of major world leaders, you kind of just assume they're intelligent, right?

Well, if Donald Trump has taught us anything, it is that we should never EVER assume. Ever. 

You know who is intelligent though? Bill Gates. 

And according to Bill Gates, President Trump thinks HIV and HPV are the same thing. 

Seriously. 

Image result for donald trump gif

According to the Billionaire, Trump actually asked him about the difference between the two viruses on TWO separate occasions.

Bill told the story recently, during a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation staff meeting.

Video footage from the meeting was obtained by MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes – and shared on the Internet, for our viewing pleasure. 

"Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV," said Bill, remembering specifically two separate meetings with President Trump, one in December 2016 and another in March 2017.

"So, I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other." 

Yes, we are laughing.

But we're also SO worried. 

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Today, Sunday March 4, marks the first ever International HPV awareness day.

HPV is a family of very common and highly contagious viruses which is transmitted through any kind of sexual contact and is responsible for a number of cancers in both men and women.

Up to 130 men and women die from cancers caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) every year in Ireland, however, there is still a significant lack of knowledge and understanding among adults. 

Worrying new research, supported by the Irish Cancer Society and Marie Keating Foundation, shows that almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of Irish adult don't know that HPV can cause cancer. 

It also found that more than half (59 per cent) are unaware that there are vaccines available that prevent HPV infections that can cause cancer, while 87 per cent believe it's unlikely that they have or have ever contracted the virus. 

HPV is extremely common, so much so that almost all adult wil get it at some point in their lives. Most infections don't come with clinical symptoms, meaning that those who have it can unknowingly transmit the virus to others.

There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and while the majority of infections are harmless, the treat of cancer remains a major concern. 

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy, Irish Cancer Society, said, “While it’s hugely encouraging to see more young girls receive a cancer-preventing HPV vaccine under the national immunisation programme, this research clearly shows we have much more work to do to ensure everyone has access to correct information about HPV vaccination.

“Awareness of vaccines to prevent cancers in men is particularly low. While 335 women are diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV each year, it is also important to note that 85 men in Ireland annually develop a cancer which could potentially be prevented by a simple vaccination. Irish Cancer Society believes it is time for Ireland to offer equal protection against HPV-caused cancers for boys and girls.”

According to the research, 38 per cent of Irish adults falsely believe that HPV cannot be passed on from one person to another. HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact however it is possible to prevent infection from certain types of HPV that cause cancer if you have been vaccinated against HPV before becoming sexually active.

Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation said, “The lack of awareness of HPV and its link to cancer among Irish adults is concerning, however this research provides us with a good opportunity to educate parents and remind the Irish population at large on the public health benefits of protection against cancers caused by HPV.

“Parents in particular need to be reminded of the importance of ensuring that their daughters receive the HPV vaccination under the current National HPV Immunisation Programme. It is very concerning that uptake levels have dropped so considerably and are currently only at 62%. On International HPV Awareness Day it is really important that we all redouble our efforts until we see the levels back up to 87% and higher.

“Globally, 17 countries, including Canada, Australia, Switzerland, United States, Austria and Italy, immunise both boys and girls against HPV. In Ireland, it’s incredibly important for parents to realise that immunisation can help to protect their children from types of HPV that can cause cancers like cervical cancer and anal cancer.”

 The research was commissioned by MSD Ireland and carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes on a sample population of 1,000 adults in Ireland.

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According to a report in The Irish Times, the Health Service Executive has seen an increase in the number of girls availing of the HPV vaccine this year.

It is understood that the figure has risen from 50 percent to 61 percent – a welcome result following a successful campaign, backed by the World Health Organisation, to promote the vaccine.

Concerns regarding its safety resulted in a sharp drop in the number of school-age girls getting vaccinated, decreasing from 87 per cent in the 2014/2015 school year to 50 per cent last year.

In September of this year, following remarks made by Phonsie Cullinan, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, on the reliability of the HPV vaccine, two Ministers advised the Church to exclude themselves from current medical debate.

Highlighting Bishop Cullinane's lack of medical qualifications, Minister Simon Harris said: “I don’t want to get into a spat with anybody, bishop or no bishop, but at the end of the day the people qualified to give medical advice on vaccinations are doctors and, funnily enough, not bishops.”

Minister John Halligan made reference to the Church's hugely contentious reputation, saying: "Religion has no place in medical debate and the Catholic Church’s track record on the medical welfare of Irish women speaks for itself."

Today, Minister Harris took to Twitter to celebrate the work done by all those involved in the campaign, writing: "Proud to work with many dedicated people in @HSELive & HPV Alliance to bring this about."

Director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien,called the increase in the number of recipients 'encouraging'.

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Following the largest ever study into the safety of the HPV vaccination, researchers in Denmark and Sweden have established that the highly contentious vaccination is not linked with 44 chronic diseases.

Three million women, aged between 18 and 44,  took part in the study which sought to examine the potential dangers associated with the vaccination, and aside from a potential increase in the development of celiac disease, researchers did not identify any other concerns.

"This is the most comprehensive study of HPV vaccination safety in adult women to date, "said lead author Dr Anders Hviid, of the Statens Serum Institut, in Denmark.

"It is not unreasonable to expect different safety concerns in adult women compared with young girls, and our study is an important supplement to the safety studies in young girls,” he added of the research which has been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

With a decrease in the number of Irish adolescents receiving the vaccination due to concerns over its safety, the researchers argue the merit of considering the likelihood of pre-existing conditions in those who receive it.

"Unmasking of pre-existing conditions at vaccination visits has been described for adolescents and young adults in the context of quadrivalent HPV vaccination; the vaccination visit triggers a work-up of symptoms that later result in a diagnosis,” the authors wrote.

“Unmasking of an underreported disease such as celiac disease in quadrivalent HPV-vaccinated Danish women is a possible explanation for the increased RR."

In recent months, two Ministers advised the Church to exclude themselves from current medical debate after Phonsie Cullinan, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, questioned the reliability of the HPV vaccine.

The bishop's remarks were met with consternation by both Health Minister Simon Harris and Independent Alliance Minister of State John Halligan.

Highlighting Bishop Cullinane's lack of medical qualifications, Minister Harris said: “I don’t want to get into a spat with anybody, bishop or no bishop, but at the end of the day the people qualified to give medical advice on vaccinations are doctors and, funnily enough, not bishops.”

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Following remarks made by Phonsie Cullinan, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, on the reliability of the HPV vaccine, two Ministers have advised the Church to exclude themselves from current medical debate.

Recently commenting on the vaccine which seeks to prevent against cervical cancer, Bishop Cullinane suggested that the money may be better spent educating adolescents on the merits of living 'clean and chaste' lives.

"I wonder could the large amount of money being spent on this vaccine be better spent on programmes which encourage our young people to live clean and chaste lives," he remarked this week, before going on to cast doubt over its effectiveness.

"I know that the vaccine may do some good but from what I have read it is not the most effective way to guard against cervical cancer," he added.
 

According to a report in The Independent, the bishop's remarks were met with consternation by both Health Minister Simon Harris and Independent Alliance Minister of State John Halligan.

Highlighting Bishop Cullinane's lack of medical qualifications, Minister Harris said: “I don’t want to get into a spat with anybody, bishop or no bishop, but at the end of the day the people qualified to give medical advice on vaccinations are doctors and, funnily enough, not bishops.”

Minister Halligan made reference to the Church's hugely contentious reputation, saying: "Religion has no place in medical debate and the Catholic Church’s track record on the medical welfare of Irish women speaks for itself."

"Our health and health education policies need to be evidence-based, with faith and morals left firmly at the door."

"I would urge Bishop Phonsie to leave the clinical debates to the clinical experts," he continued. "His attempts to weigh in on a medical argument are ill-advised, to say the least."

Image credit: John Mc Elroy

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Fears over side-effects have been blamed for a massive decline in the uptake of the HPV vaccine, used to prevent the development of cervical cancer.

Figures fell by 50 per cent in 2016, however the HSE have said uptake has stabilised somewhat this year after it warned parents about misleading information.

Over 230,000 girls have received the Gardasil vaccine since it became available in 2010, with approximately 1,000 of those reporting adverse side-effects including nausea, exhaustion and fainting.

Ahead of the new school year, the HSE will send 40,000 information packs to secondary schools around the country as medical teams prepare to offer the vaccine to first year girls.

Gardasil protects women against two forms of the sexually transmitted disease, HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

Given that Ireland has one of the highest rates on cervical cancer in Europe, the HSE are eager to educate young women on the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Professor Karina Butler, a consultant paediatrician and chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, assured concerned parents that Gardasil has been safely administrated to millions of women around the world.

"Not one of these people anywhere in the world has been medically proven to have had a long term side effect from getting the vaccine," she said.

"This is a vaccine that can save lives. It works."

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The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is currently considering making the HPV vaccine available to boys.

HPV (human papilloma virus) causes cervical cancer in women. Other cancers associated with the virus affect both men and women, including anal, genital and throat cancers. The virus can also cause genital warts in both woman and men.

Over 200,000 girls have been vaccinated since it was introduced. The vaccine has been available to girls since 2010 and prevents them from developing cervical cancer later in life. It is free and readily available from the HSE for all girls in the first year of secondary school. 

HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment and Deputy Chief Executive, Dr Máirín Ryan, said on the HIQA website: “HPV infection is the most commonly acquired sexually transmitted viral infection. In most cases, it causes no symptoms and is cleared by the body’s immune system. However, persistent infection can lead to the development of cancer."

Dr Ryan continued: “The HPV vaccine has been proven to be safe. Additionally, it is highly effective at preventing infection with the HPV types most commonly linked with cancer and genital warts in both men and women.

"This HTA will investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of expanding the HPV vaccination programme to include boys, thereby extending them the opportunity to benefit from the vaccine and increasing HPV immunity in the wider population.

”HIQA’s assessment will also consider the wider implications of any proposed change to the vaccination programme, such as the budget impact, use of resources, and the ethical and societal implications.”

The vaccine has been available to both sexes in Australia since 2006, and has been linked with a 90 percent reduction in cases of genital warts in both sexes.

Last year, the vaccine was made available to gay men in Ireland.

The results of the health technology assessment are expected next year.

In May, the Irish Cancer Society wrote about the huge benefits of the vaccine. Dr Robert O'Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “Young women and girls who have received the HPV vaccination are fully protected against the strains of HPV that cause seven in ten of all cervical cancers.   

“It is important to note that, while significantly less likely to develop cervical cancer, availing of cervical screening – whether that is through the HPV test or the current liquid-based cytology process – is still recommended for these women so that any signs of the cancer can be spotted early and treated before they become a threat to their lives." 

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The Irish Cancer Society are calling for additional efforts and investment to improve the uptake of the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccination programme, after some controversial reports caused the amount of people choosing to get vaccinated to fall rapidly.

According to the society, the latest report from the National Cancer Registry, highlights an “urgent need for increased investment to prevent unnecessary deaths.”

Over 400 people are diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV in Ireland each year, and sadly, the disease claims up to 130 lives annually.

Donald Buggy, head of services and advocacy at The Irish Cancer Society is also calling for the programme to be opened to boys.

‘’85 men in Ireland annually develop a cancer which could potentially be prevented by a simple and safe vaccination.’’

“While boys can avail of the HPV vaccine through their GP, for a fee, The Irish Cancer Society believes it is time for the government to invest in the extension of the national HPV school vaccination programme to boys, so that as many lives as possible can be saved,” he said.

There have been a significant decline in the uptake of the vaccination among secondary school girls over the past two years with figures dropping from 87 per cent to as low as 50 per cent in some areas.

Donald added, ''If this worrying trend is not reversed, women will continue to die needlessly from HPV-caused cancers.''

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, recently hit out at anti-vaccine campaigners, who he believes are putting lives at risk due to the spread of misinformation.

The Minister admitted he was deeply concerned about the decline in the uptake of the potentially life-saving vaccine.

He said, ‘’There is no scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term illness. However, this misinformation has led to a significant drop in uptake rates of the HPV vaccine.’’

‘’This means that a large cohort of girls are now at risk of developing cervical cancer later in their lives.’’

The fresh calls for increased investment in the programme come after the Teachers’ Union of Ireland passed a motion asking for a review of the HPV vaccine programme is schools. 

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According to the results of a new study, 15 per cent of Irish women, who participated in a national screening programme, tested positive for Human Papillomavirus – a virus which is known to cause cervical cancer.

Of the 6,000 women who participated in the programme, which was funded by the Health Research Board, one in six carried traces of the virus.

According to The Irish Times, however, just five per cent of those who tested positive carried the two subtypes which are generally associated with cases of the disease.

Commenting on the results, John O’Leary, professor of pathology at Trinity College, explained that the results were actually in keeping with similar studies conducted in other countries, and were not a source of undue concern.

While most strains of the virus are low-risk, some are responsible for causing changes to cervical cells which can, in some cases, lead to a cancer diagnosis.

It has been established that women under the age of 30 are most likely to test positive for HPV, with one quarter presenting with DNA of the virus.

The interim results of the pilot screening will be discussed at a symposium in Dublin later today.

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