HPV Patient Fights the Disease and Wins

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Bob Hallinan

Executive Producer

Office: (913) 588-7284

Cell: (913)-481-7329

Email

newsmedia@kumc.edu

          It started with a simple sore throat. But Rick Lee soon noticed that it wasn’t going away. And it hurt whether he was eating or drinking. When he finally went to the doctor, he was stunned by the diagnosis. It was throat cancer, caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. That led to scores of scans, tests and ultimately a series of radiation treatments at The University of Kansas Cancer Center over six weeks. But at the end of that time, tests showed the treatment worked…Rick’s cancer was gone.

            Rick was one of the lucky ones who recognized something was wrong and sought help early enough to make a difference. Nearly 14 million new HPV infections occur in America every year. But there is good news: cancers caused by HPV can be prevented through vaccination. A safe and effective vaccine to prevent HPV infections that can cause cancer has been available since 2006; however, uptake has been well below the national goal of 80 percent coverage by 2020. The CDC found that less than 50 percent of girls and 38 percent of boys completed the recommended vaccine series.

            This information is discouraging to Dr. Andres Bur, an ear nose and throat specialist at The University of Kansas Health System. In the video, Dr. Bur describes HPV and the value of the vaccine which is being underused. He says the vaccine has a very high success rate. He also explains who is at the highest risk for HPV related cancers.

            Also on the video is Rick Lee. He outlines his dramatic story, from the time he first noticed something wasn’t quite right until the magic day when he “graduated” from treatment with a feeling of “jubilation.” He says he has a whole new outlook on life and has learned not to take anything for granted. 

            His mother, Wanda Lee, also describes the ordeal her son went through and how he handled things every step of the way.

            The video also shows Rick in the clinic and getting scanned. There are also still photos of Rick enjoying various activities such as golf and pictures with his family.