EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is encouraging the community to get regular dental checkups and get the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine series in recognition of National Oral Cancer Awareness Month.

The Department of Public Health Medicaid Waiver Program offers free HPV vaccines for those between the ages of 9 to 26 who are uninsured or underinsured. For more information, contact (915) 212-6532.

Residents can take part in Oral Cancer Awareness Month by:

  • Reducing the use of tobacco products
    Tobacco use and vaping significantly increases the risk of infection by HPV, which causes oral or oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Getting screened
    Oral and oropharyngeal cancers occur most often in the tongue, soft and hard palate, tonsils, gums and back of the throat, which is why regular oral and dental examinations by a health professional are important.
  • Getting the HPV vaccine
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is known to cause approximately 70 percent of oral and oropharyngeal cancer cases. The HPV vaccine was developed to prevent infection by high-risk types of HPV that cause cancers such as oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

“Improving oral and oropharyngeal cancer awareness in our community is imperative,” said City-County Local Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza. “Oral cancer has an incidence rate of about 7.2 per 100,000 residents—nearly 14,000 of our friends, family members or neighbors—in El Paso County and affects males twice as much as females in the U.S. But we as a community can work to reduce the incidence rate by taking the preventative care and talking with your loved ones about the importance of oral healthcare.”

For more information on the services and health screenings provided by DPH, visit EPHealth.com under the Services Tab Medicaid Waiver or call 2-1-1.