Power. Progress. Prevention. June 19, 2020

Published on June 19, 2020

Power. Progress. Prevention. -- An Advocacy Newsletter | Prevent Cancer Foundation

Gardasil approved for prevention of certain head and neck cancers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Gardasil, a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, for certain head and neck cancers. The vaccine is used to protect against HPV and is approved by the FDA to prevent multiple cancers that are often caused by the virus—cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. While it also protects against oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the back of the throat, base of the tongue and the tonsils), up until now that was not an FDA-approved use of the vaccine.

This approval does NOT change recommendations about who should receive the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says boys and girls ages 11-12 should get the first dose (though it can begin as early as age 9), with the second dose coming 6-12 months after the first. The vaccine is recommended for teens and young adults through age 26. Review the guidelines to learn more.

Stewart Lyman, a patient with throat cancer caused by HPV, shared his thoughts on the FDA’s approval, saying, “To have this extended to head and neck cancer is really very helpful for helping to inform the public that this serious disease, which has significant morbidity and mortality associated with it, can be prevented with the vaccine.”

Learn more about oropharyngeal cancer, and remember that vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from certain kinds of cancer!

Protections against discrimination removed for LGBT patients

Last Friday, the Trump administration announced it is rescinding protections for LGBT people against discrimination by health care providers, hospitals and insurance companies. Without these protections, LGBT people can be denied care based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The administration says sexual orientation and gender identity do not fall under the definition of sex and thus do not qualify for nondiscrimination protections named in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reversing the interpretation from the Obama administration in 2016.

Roger Severino, the Director of the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said, “It’s not the role of the federal bureaucrat to impose their own meanings on the words that their representatives have enshrined into law.” 

The new rule rescinding these protections will go into effect in August.

This move places the LGBT community at risk for poorer health outcomes, as they already may be hesitant to have regular checkups, often because of previous experiences with discrimination. As a result, they are less likely to have routine cancer screenings and are more likely to delay visits.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® stands behind the LGBT community and advocates for equality in access to health care services to support their needs.

To learn more about cancer and the LGBT community, read our Pride Month blog post.

Supreme Court rules employees cannot be fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity

In a monumental decision by the Supreme Court on Monday, the justices ruled it is illegal for businesses to terminate an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. To reach their decision, the Court reviewed two sets of cases. The first, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, centered around Aimee Stephens, who was fired from her position after she disclosed her plans to seek gender affirmation surgery. The other two cases,  Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga. and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, were filed by Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda, both who were fired because of their sexual orientation.

Chief Justice Robert and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Gorsuch, Keagan and Sotomayor ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, while Justices Alito, Kavanaugh and Thomas ruled against. This surprised many given the Court’s conservative slant.

Representing the majority, Justice Gorsuch wrote, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

Citing Title VII under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which defines employment discrimination, he wrote, “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

The ruling provides an opportunity for legal challenges against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind protections for transgender patients in health care—which was announced only two days prior. It also means that millions of LGBT people across the country will maintain access to health care provided by their employers.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® applauds the Supreme Court’s decision to protect the LGBT community and will provide updates as they become available.



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