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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 approximately 14,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.

Dr. Jonathan Grant, a radiation oncologist, at Intermountain Healthcare said long-lasting infections of human papillomavirus are the main cause of cervical cancer.

"Cervical cancer is unique because it is one of few cancers that is simulated by a virus," he said.

There is now a vaccine to help prevent this disease, the HPV vaccine.

The American Cancer Society said cervical cancer rates have dropped 65% from 2012 to 2019 after a generation of young women were vaccinated against HPV for the first time.

"The HPV vaccine is one of the great success stories over the last ten to twenty years," Grant said.

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

"I just felt like I was floating. It was surreal to be diagnosed with cervical cancer," she said.

Her last two pap smears came back with abnormal cells and a month before her next yearly checkup she started having heavy bleeding.

Grant said that is a sign of cervical cancer. She started chemotherapy and radiation treatment immediately.

"I had never felt that sick in my whole life," she said.

But she kept fighting through the sickness.

"It was mostly making sure I was here to take care of my kids and my dogs but mostly my kids," Peterson said.

Peterson is now cancer free and spends her time camping with family and friends.

She said if the vaccine was available when she was younger, she would have gotten it. "I just think if there is a vaccine that reduces the risk of getting this disease it's an absolute no brainer," Peterson said.

Grant says the HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of nine and 26 and before they are sexually active.

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Ayanna Likens
Ayanna Likens is an Emmy award-winning special projects reporter for KSL-TV.

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