Deciding to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was a no-brainer for me. I heard about it on the news and when I did my research, I found the benefits far outweighed the risks.
I was 19 years old and finishing my senior year of high school. I remember talking about it with my girlfriends at lunch. To my surprise, not everyone was in favor of the vaccine.
One friend in particular was not shy to voice her negative opinion. She said she'd discussed the vaccine with her parents, and that they'd heard from friends that it caused mental retardation.
"Both my doctor and my parents feel strongly about the vaccine's benefits," I responded.
It was hard for me to imagine this alleged harmful effect when I listened to my parents and physician, and had done a lot of research on my own.
The consensus in the scientific literature was that the vaccine prevents cervical cancer. Each day in America, 30 women are diagnosed with the disease.
The HPV vaccine helps protect against two types of HPV that cause about 75% of cervical cancer cases. As for the claims that the vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, "There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record."
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend that girls receive HPV vaccine.
Another friend, whose mother is an OB/GYN, said she also was going to get the vaccine. She said her mother was recommending it for her patients as well.
The next week, I scheduled my first of three Gardasil® vaccines.
Within the next year, those same girlfriends, with the exception of one, got their vaccines, too.
When I went to college at a conservative Texas university, I discovered I could get the two remaining vaccines at my college health center.
To me, that was another affirmation that the vaccine would help to protect my health.
I finished Gardasil® within the year and felt overwhelmingly proud to show off my completed vaccine card.
I was the first of my friends to complete this process and it felt good to be the leader.
Little did I know that five years later I would be working under the leadership of Ronald DePinho, M.D., our new MD Anderson president and a supporter of the HPV vaccine.
I'm proud to show off my completed records and even more proud to work for someone who's not afraid to voice his opinion in the midst of controversy.
Erich Sturgis, M.D., professor, Department of Head and Neck Surgery, discusses the benefits of the HPV vaccine, for females and males.