Yes, it’s possible! And it turns out the WHO plan is pretty straightforward: just three (okay, big) steps!
Canada is well on its way, but there’s still work to be done, and you can be part of it
We’ve come a long way!
1949 – Pap test first performed in Canada (in B.C.)1
1969 – 21.6 per 100,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer1
1972 – Pap test recommended as the basis for provincial screening programs2
1990 – 10.4 per 100,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer1
2004 – 7.5 per 100,000 women diagnosed with cervical cancer3
2006 – First HPV vaccine approved by Health Canada4
2012 – Vaccination against HPV is recommended for both girls and boys aged 9–26, as well as other high-risk groups5
2022 – The New Pap (HPV DNA test) becomes primary screening test*
2030 – Elimination of cervical cancer*
We could actually eliminate cervical cancer in our lifetime
Yes, you read that right!
Cervical cancer can be eliminated because we know what causes it. HPV, or human papillomavirus, causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) has set 2030 as a goal for eliminating cervical cancer, which they define as no more than 4 in 100,000 women being diagnosed per year.6
It’s a big goal, but the plan to achieve it is, on paper, pretty straightforward. And Canada is well on its way to doing its part to eliminate cervical cancer in our country.
According to the WHO, there are three steps to eliminating cervical cancer:
1. 90% of all girls being fully vaccinated against HPV by age 15
In Canada, there are already national recommendations that girls and boys aged 9–26 be vaccinated against HPV (note that the HPV vaccines currently available do not vaccinate against all possible HPV strains).5
2. 70% of women are screened with a high-performance test by age 35, and again by age 45
The Pap test has been an important development in women’s health and has greatly reduced the number of Canadians who develop cervical cancer. However, the Pap test cannot identify an HPV infection that may become cervical cancer. That requires an HPV DNA test (a.k.a. the New Pap), which the WHO ranks first in its list of high-performance screening tests. Provinces are currently looking at making the HPV DNA test the default screening test for all women.
3. 90% of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment (applies to both pre-cancer treatment and management of invasive cancer)
In Canada, it’s estimated that about 1,350 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year and about 410 women will die from cervical cancer. The earlier cervical cancer risk factors (i.e., HPV infection) can be identified, the easier it is to treat and manage.7
Cervical cancer is almost 100% preventable, which means that if we all play our parts — from individuals getting vaccinated and getting regular screenings, to governments ensuring high performance tests are available — we can actually make the 2020s the last decade to see women suffering from cervical cancer!
There is already a high-performance screening test available through private clinics in Canada!
Searching “HPV DNA test” and your city/region will help you find a testing centre near you. The test is covered by most private insurance providers.
*These are projected dates and are subject to change.
1. Shaw PA. The history of cervical screening 1: The Pap test. J Soc Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2000;22(2):110–114.
2. Mosavi-Jarrahi A, Kliewer EV. Cervical cancer incidence trends in Canada: A 30-year population-based analysis. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2013;35(7):620–626.
3. Government of Canada. Cervical cancer facts and figures. Accessed from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/cancer/cervical-cancer-facts-figures.html. Accessed on: Dec. 2, 2020.
4. Gardasil Product Monograph. Merck Canada Inc. Mar. 10, 2015.
5. Update on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. Canada communicable disease report. 2012;38: https://doi.org/10.14745/ccdr.v38i00a01.
6. World Health Organization. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. Accessed from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/human-papillomavirus-(hpv)-and-cervical-cancer. Accessed on: Dec. 2, 2020.
7. Government of Canada. Cervical Cancer. Accessed from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/cancer/cervical-cancer.html. Accessed on: Dec. 10, 2020.