HPV Prevention Week: the link Between HPV and cervical cancer
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is linked to cervical cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus affecting both women and men. It is easily spread through any kind of skin-to-skin sexual contact (including intimate touching, oral, vaginal and anal sex). Two types of HPV can infect the cervix – low risk and high risk. Low risk types are not associated with cervical cancer but may cause genital warts and abnormal screening results.
High risk types of HPV may lead to cervical cancer. Usually the body’s immune system can remove the virus within two years. But sometimes high risk HPV does not clear on its own, and over time, can cause the cells of the cervix to become abnormal. These abnormal cells can develop into cervical cancer.
Protecting yourself is easy
The best ways of preventing cervical cancer are getting regular cervical cancer screening and getting the HPV vaccine.
Having regular Pap tests can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by 70 per cent. Regular Pap tests can catch changes to your cervix early, either before they’ve become cancerous, or at the beginning of the disease. When cervical cancer is caught early, the survival rate is more than 85 per cent!
Cervical cancer screening (Pap tests) can be done by a doctor, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, midwife or naturopathic doctor at their office or clinic. To get screened for cervical cancer, call your health care provider or find a suitable clinic by visiting the BC Cancer Agency’s Screening Program clinic locator.
Vaccines are very effective in preventing HPV infections. The vaccine protects against types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. Get the HPV vaccine if you have a cervix and are between the ages of 9-45 years. The vaccine is provided free to Grade 6 children in BC. If you have received the vaccine, you still need to be screened, as the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.