The European premiere of Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic, was screened in Dublin last night.
The documentary follows the stories of five brave women who have been afflicted by Human papillomavirus (HPV), outlining their battle with cervical cancer. It also includes interviews with some of the world’s leading experts on HPV.
This year in Ireland, more than 280 Irish women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 90 women will succumb to their disease despite the modern treatments available.
In addition, more than 6,500 women in Ireland receive invasive treatment to remove HPV-caused pre-cancers each year, and one in 10 women here will need treatment in their lifetime because of HPV infection.
Cervical cancer survivor and patient advocate Christine Baze, who took part in the documentary, said: “For me, making Someone You Love gave me the opportunity to show the world my story of survival, while helping others to understand HPV and the misconceptions, stigma and pain associated with this terrible affliction on our bodies.
“I hope it evokes an emotional impact from the audience and gives people an insight into the struggle, heartbreak and triumph we experienced during the making of the movie.”
Commenting on the importance of HPV-awareness and prevention, Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said: “I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge those dedicated people in all organisations who are working hard to prevent HPV-related cancers.
“I also encourage all women aged 25-60 to take up the invitation from CervicalCheck when they are invited for a smear test."
Dr Matt Hewitt, consultant obstetrician gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital, said: “Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25-39 years in Ireland, which is a startling figure considering the prevention programmes we have in place.
“Vaccination and screening are important methods of preventing and detecting HPV-related disease in women.
“90% of people will contract HPV at some point in their lifetime, and while most infections will clear naturally without causing long-term problems, a significant number of women and men will be affected by HPV-cancer, despite it being a preventable disease in many cases.”
Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic is supported by MSD Ireland, Cerviva, Marie Keating Foundation, Irish Cancer Society, Irish Family Planning Association and the Well Woman Centre.
There are approximately 170 different types of HPV, of which around 40 HPV types affect the genital areas, mouths and throats of men and women.
A number of these strains have a strong risk of causing cancer but often do not present with symptoms. As a result, those affected will be unaware that they have HPV but may still pass on the infection6.
Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research, Irish Cancer Society said, “False information regarding HPV has been widely circulated and we are now reaching a critical level here.
“It has become a life or death situation which is incredibly worrying considering the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Awareness initiatives and documentaries such as ‘Someone You Love’, help people to understand why HPV prevention is so vitally important in the battle to stop people getting cancer in the first place.
“We hear so many desperately tragic stories of women robbed of their fertility and other young women needing horribly disabling treatment, with some being taken from their families at such a young age after brave battles with cervical cancer.
“We cannot stand by and let HPV-related cancers impact so negatively on our society.”
A panel discussion, moderated by writer and HPV-cancer survivor Emily Hourican, was held following the documentary to discuss the impact and burden of HPV on Irish society.
Panel members included Irish cervical cancer survivor Heather Keating, Dr Matt Hewitt, Dr Robert O’Connor and Christine Baze.
For more information on HPV please visit www.hpv.ie and follow the online conversation via #HPVaware.