Cervical Cancer Awareness Week Marks Turning Point for Cancer Prevention

    Regular Pap tests together with the HPV vaccine saving lives

    TORONTO, Oct. 18 /CNW/ - Cervical Cancer Awareness Week (October 22 to
28) marks an historic turning point in the fight against cervical cancer. With
the addition of HPV vaccination to regular cervical screening, there is the
potential to eradicate this preventable cancer.
    "Regular cervical screening is already saving the lives of hundreds of
women in Ontario each year," said Dr. Verna Mai, director, Screening Programs,
Cancer Care Ontario. "HPV immunization gives us a powerful new defense by
blocking cancer-causing HPV infections before they occur."
    In Ontario today, 5,600 women are living with a diagnosis of cervical
cancer, and 150 women die of the disease each year. A diagnosis of cervical
cancer and its treatment can have significant emotional and physical
consequences, including infertility for some women.
    The HPV vaccine is almost 100 per cent effective in preventing most
persistent HPV infections that can cause cervical cancer. If received before
possible HPV exposure from sexual activity, the vaccine protects against two
high-risk HPV types (16 and 18) associated with 70 per cent of cervical
cancer, and two low-risk types (six and 11) associated with genital warts. The
vaccine is most effective if offered to females before they are sexually
    "Last year, I had an abnormal Pap test, and my doctors told me that I
could have cervical cancer. My daughter was very thrown and upset by the whole
thing, and so was I. So when I heard about the HPV vaccine, I sat down with
her and I told her that I didn't want her to go through what I had gone
through, and that I would pay for the vaccine if she would have it. She said
'yes,'" said Sandra, mother of two from Ottawa.

    Regular Cervical Screening is Key

    The HPV vaccine is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening. Women
who are, or have ever been, sexually active must continue to have regular Pap
tests even if they have received the HPV vaccine. This is because the
currently available vaccine, Gardasil(R), does not protect against all
cancer-causing types of HPV. Also, about three out of every four people -
males and females - will have HPV at some point in their lifetime.
    Since HPV infections seldom cause symptoms, screening is the only way to
detect changes in the cervix that might progress to cancer. Cervical cancer
cases and deaths have decreased by more than 60 per cent in the past 30 years,
mostly due to regular Pap tests.
    At least 20 per cent of women are seldom or never screened. These women
tend to be among the most vulnerable, including women over 50, women of low
income or low literacy, Aboriginals and newcomers to Canada. More intensive,
targeted strategies are needed to reach women who are not being regularly
    The goal of the Ontario Cervical Screening Program is to save women's
lives and promote women's health by further reducing the incidence of and
mortality from cervical cancer. The Program also plays a key role in educating
and advising health professionals and the public about cancer screening, HPV
and the HPV vaccine.

    Cancer Care Ontario is the provincial organization that steers and
coordinates Ontario's cancer services and prevention efforts, so that fewer
people get cancer and patients receive the highest quality care.
    For more information on the HPV vaccine, cancer of the cervix and Pap
tests, please go to: http://www.cancercare.on.ca/index_cervicalScreening.htm
or visit Ontario's HPV information website: www.hpvontario.ca.

    Version Française disponible

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Elizabeth McCarthy,
Communications Specialist, Public Affairs, Cancer Care Ontario, Tel: (416)
971-9800 x. 3339, Email: elizabeth.mccarthy@cancercare.on.ca

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