A recent study conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) underlines the importance of the communication between healthcare providers and patients in ensuring the use of HPV vaccinations as a preventive measure for cancer.

It appears that emphasis on the effectiveness apart from tonality, language and content plays a substantial role in influencing a parent’s decision.

Prevention as the key to incidence control

According to the National Cancer Society of Malaysia, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among Malaysian women, a slight improvement over the years from being the second most common. In contrary, the Singapore Cancer Registry, charted cervical cancer as the tenth most common cancer in Singaporean women.

It remains as the single most preventable cancer which can be effectively treated if detected early. Specifically contributing to this edge is the identification of HPV types 16 and 18 which causes about 70% of the cervical cancer cases worldwide. To a lesser degree these group of viruses may also lead to other types of cancers, including vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and cancer of the throat.

Inconsistencies in gold standard guidelines cause confusion

Previous research by Teri L. Malo, a research associate at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center concluded that the practice of HPV vaccine recommendations was done inconsistently. Many patients fall behind schedule, with no adherence to national guidelines in terms of dosages.

Thus, it is not a surprise to find that many patients are actually under-immunised and unaware of the consequences to follow in a blind-leading-the-blind manner.

Should males get the HPV Vaccine too?

Contrary to popular belief that the HPV vaccine only protects girls, this vaccine protects boys against certain HPV-related cancers just as effectively. Given that HPV is common in both males and females, and each year over 9,000 males are affected by HPV related cancers of the anus, oropharynx and penis. It makes perfect sense for them to also be vaccinated.

Cases of anal cancer and cancers of the oropharyngeal tract are on the rise and should the current trend continue, it has been projected that the annual number of cancers of the oropharynx attributed to HPV will exceed the annual number of cervical cancers in a number of years.

All of such cancers caused by HPV infection which could be prevented by HPV vaccination in the male gender and subsequently reduce the spread of the infection and benefit both genders.

Language is the vehicle of thought

The study conducted showed that the most effective way to initiate a change of behavior on the other end is by incorporating the word Prevention of cancer, highlighting its efficacy as such. Given that the consequence of no abiding leads to the word cancer associated with much taboo, psychologically patients are more prone to act on this negative reinforcement model.

It is a succinct and enlightening message brought forth by this straightforward study which brings about the awareness of what constitutes as a powerful tool of communication. Effective communication requires a willing audience, with a subsequent impact in their lives, yet this often fails to happen. This lies simply in doctors not being able to identify with the expectations and needs of a patient and what drives them to comply.

A simple example would be, identifying with the patients’ needs and connecting with them at a more personal level by spelling out loud the name of their child and associating that with the efficacy of performing a simple procedure drives the most favourable action in this preventive measure. MIMS

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