Each year, more than 1,300 people in Canada are diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 400 die from the disease. But did you know that cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable and highly curable when found and treated early?
The World Health Organization has called on countries around the world to take action to eliminate cervical cancer, and Canada has committed to achieving this goal by 2040. The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC) is leading this coordinated effort by bringing together a broad group of partners, experts and stakeholders including Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). We are presented with a unique opportunity to collaborate with global health partners, and know that by working together and focusing on the promotion of HPV vaccination and supporting cervical cancer screening programs that we can help to reduce the number of future cervical cancer cases in Canada.
Improve HPV immunization rates
Nearly all cervical cancer cases are due to HPV infection, and the CCS-funded Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer (ComPARe) study found that we could prevent about 5,300 cervical cancer cases by 2042 if more Canadian children were vaccinated against HPV.
While any gender can contract HPV, up until 2017 vaccines were only offered through publicly funded school-based programs to girls in all provinces and territories, and to boys in only 6 provinces. We advocated to the remaining 4 provinces and 3 territories to expand their programs to boys and successfully set the stage for all provinces and territories to adopt gender-neutral HPV vaccination programs.Now, action must be taken to promote school-based HPV vaccination programs and to help change attitudes surrounding immunizations with the goal of increasing vaccination uptake.
Support cervical cancer screening programs
Another way to help reduce cervical cancer cases in Canada is to support cervical cancer screening programs. While the Pap test is currently used for cervical cancer screening, for people within rural and cultural communities who experience barriers to accessing screening in-person, it will be crucial to develop screening programs that offer the HPV test. This test allows for the possibility of self-sampling, which makes it more accessible for more people.
CCS supports provinces and territories as they consider the feasibility of incorporating HPV testing into their cervical cancer screening programs. Given the effectiveness of Pap tests in detecting cervical cancer and reducing cervical cancer death, Canadians should still participate in existing cervical cancer screening programs.
CPAC also detailed within Canada’s Action Plan that it will be critical to optimize the tracking of HPV screening and improve follow-up coordination with people who receive abnormal HPV test results. The goal of this is to reduce wait times for people who need to have their test results addressed promptly – we know that when cervical cancer is detected and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better.
Looking for information about cervical cancer screening? Visit cancer.ca to learn more.