Parents Deserve to Know

Parents Deserve to Know

By Kate Yglesias Houghton, President & CEO
Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance

Each year 70,000 teens and young adults will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States. We make up 8% of all cancer diagnoses. But young Americans impacted by cancer have seen little to no improvement in survival rates over the last four decades even as older adult mortality rates have declined by 25% since the 1990s.

Recently I joined a meeting in Washington, DC with Cervivor and other cervical cancer advocacy organizations. They shared some exciting news: we are on the brink of eliminating all deaths from cervical cancer.

My heart skipped a beat but my head reminded me of the cold, hard facts: cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for young women between 20 and 39.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) has been identified as the cause of 90% of cervical cancers and 70% of oral cancers found in the throat, neck, and tongue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, “about 39,800 HPV-associated cancers occur in the United States each year: about 23,300 among women, and about 16,500 among men.”

Like polio, we can protect our children and grandchildren from HPV and HPV-related cancers. It is not only a vaccine recommended by countless public and private organizations, but available at no additional cost to the patient or state.

Unfortunately, parents still do not know that this vaccine is available and most effective given to children between the ages of 11 and 14. The American Cancer Society noted in their Cancer Facts & Figures 2018 report, “immunization rate remains low in the US; in 2016, 50% of girls 13-17 years – and only 36% at age 13 – were up to date with the HPV vaccination series.”

Legislation to require the HPV vaccine for school admission has been signed into law in Virginia and District of Columbia. In Rhode Island, the HPV vaccine was added to the list of immunizations needed for school entry and now 70% of children in that state are protected against this incurable, cancer-causing virus.

Parents deserve to know that they can protect their children from an incurable, cancer-causing virus. Adding the HPV vaccine to the list of immunizations needed to attend school is a seamless and already regulated way to get the information in the hands of parents.

Recently  I got to stand with Florida state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, Florida state Representative Amy Mercado, and Moffitt Cancer Center AYA Program Director Dr. Damon Reed in support of SB 1558 & HB 1343, the Women’s Cancer Prevention Act. This bill would add the HPV vaccine to the Florida list of required immunizations.

It is hard to explain, as a cancer survivor who grew up in South Florida, how it feels to know speaking up for young men and women in my home state could protect them from ever battling a disease that nearly took my life away. Please join me by adding your name to our petition. Let’s end cervical cancer for good.

About the author:

Kate Yglesias Houghton is President and CEO of Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance. Prior to joining Critical Mass, Kate served a senior staff member to a Chief Deputy Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives and leader of the national Democratic Party. In 2011, she served on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, promoting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. While on the campaign trail, Kate was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at just 27 years old. She successfully completed treatment over four months before rejoining the campaign. Kate teamed up with Critical Mass in 2013 and is now focused on ensuring the unique needs of Americans diagnosed with cancer between 15 and 39 years of age are fully recognized by decision makers from hospital administrators to policymakers in Washington, DC.




“HPV and Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Mar. 2017,
“The HPV Vaccine: Access and Use in the U.S.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 19 Oct. 2017,
Cancer Facts & Figures 2018. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2018.
“Cancer statistics, 2018.” Siegel, Rebecca L., et al. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 4 Jan. 2018,
“HPV Vaccine: State Legislation and Statues.” National Conference on State Legislatures, 10 July 2017.
“Despite benefits, vaccination rate for HPV remains low in Florida.” Girona, Jose Patino. Tampa Bay Times. 25 January 2017.’ Support for School-Entry Requirements for Human Papillomavirus Vaccination: A National Study
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