Protégé : 2022-23 Annual report

Ending cervical cancer

1,300
people in Canada are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year

Every year, 1,300 people in Canada are diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 400 die from it. It is a disease that is almost entirely preventable, and it is highly curable when found and treated early.

Cervical cancer is also largely a disease of inequity. It is more common among people living in rural or remote areas, people with lower income, recent immigrants and First Nations, Inuit and Métis – those who do not have equitable access to prevention, screening and care. If we are to succeed in eliminating cervical cancer, these realities must change.

How partners are solving the challenge

Canada has a goal to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040. The Partnership is funding multiple projects that support the three key goals of the Action Plan for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer in Canada.

  • Vaccinate more people against HPV
    Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly all cervical cancers. The good news is that there is an effective vaccine against the virus. The most effective strategy for preventing cervical cancer is to immunize as many young people as possible.
  • Screen more people for HPV, and in better ways
    Cervical screening with the HPV test can identify the risk of cervical cancer earlier than a Pap test and reduce the number of people who get the disease. Cervical screening programs are considering how best to realize the benefits of transitioning from Pap tests to HPV tests.
  • Follow up appropriately after a positive screening test
    Appropriate follow up is essential to identify pre-cancer or cancer at an early stage and indicate who needs treatment or further testing such as colposcopy or biopsy.

What we achieved this year

Understanding barriers to HPV vaccination

The Partnership is funding public health organizations to discover who is not getting vaccinated and why. This year, the Urban Public Health Network and the Public Health Physicians of Canada worked with community partners to explore challenges experienced by under-immunized populations through surveys, focus groups and interviews. They also collected data with regional health authorities and First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners across Canada to paint a clearer picture of under-immunization for HPV and to recommend solutions.

Transitioning to primary HPV screening

This year, the Partnership supported seven provinces to advance planning and implementation of HPV primary screening: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Most provinces and territories are actively planning to launch HPV-based screening programs, and two have launched pilot projects for HPV primary screening.

Quebec announced plans this year to implement HPV as the province’s primary screening test. British Columbia may use an approach where individuals test themselves using a kit. This makes screening more comfortable for individuals and also means fewer visits to the doctor.

Following up after positive tests

The Partnership is supporting the Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada and the Society of Canadian Colposcopists to develop national clinical guidelines that will support triage and management of patients following a positive HPV test. This work is nearly complete, with many partners eager to receive and use the guidelines.

New resources for partners

Fine-tuning vaccination programs

The Partnership launched an HPV vaccine access map, which shows the coverage and eligibility rules for publicly funded HPV vaccines in each province and territory. This helps identify ways to improve access to and equity within publicly funded HPV immunization programs and policies across Canada.

A support tool for screening

To help provinces and territories on their journey toward HPV primary screening, the Partnership worked with partners to launch the HPV screening and follow-up pathway this year. Drawing from Canadian and international experience, the pathway sets out recommendations for success across six steps of cervical screening – from establishing an organized HPV screening program to appropriate treatment and follow up after a positive HPV test.

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