PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s a dramatic increase in a cancer that’s preventable with a vaccine for children. Doctors are calling the rate of the increase alarming.
A survivor, who has now dedicated his life to raising awareness and helping others with this type of cancer, is sharing his story.
While reflecting on his survival, 48-year-old David Caldarella is grateful and on a mission.
“I wanted to repay that kindness that I received,” said Calldarella.
Caldarella started a foundation called David’s Dream and Believe to help support cancer patients. He was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer seven years ago.
“You know the future looked grim after that diagnosis,” said Caldarella.
He had just turned 40 and was healthy and in great shape.
“I loved running,” he said.
His cancer was caused by HPV, the Human Papillomavirus, the same thing that causes cervical cancer in woman.
“It is considered a sexually transmitted disease that’s passed from person to person,” said Dr. David Cognetti, with Jefferson Health.
Cognetti says 85 percent of Americans have been exposed to the virus. It’s connection to throat cancer, in both men and women, has increased dramatically.
“The rate of HPV-related throat cancer is skyrocketing to epidemic proportions,” said Cognetti.
Caldarella was shocked to learn HPV caused his cancer.
“Surprised because you think that there are signs of a sexually transmitted disease and obviously there are none for HPV,” said Caldarella.
But there are symptoms for throat cancer, including lumps, coughing, and a sore throat.
David had surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, it was grueling.
“I always think, especially how bad things were for me, that I have a purpose here now,” he said.
Among the foundation’s events – “Sundays Crusin’ for a Cure.”
“To watch his foundation grow over the past five years has been amazing,” said Cognetti.
There is a vaccine for HPV that is recommended for both girls and boys before they become sexually active. It’s a vaccine that prevents cancer, but doctors say vaccination rates are still way too low.