With approximately 300 Quebec women, between 25 and 44 years, diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, Olympic medalist and World Champion Marianne St-Gelais asks women to take their health into their own hands
KIRKLAND, QC, Aug. 21, 2019 /CNW/ - While about three in four (72 per cent) Quebecers think they know what the human papillomavirus (HPV) is, a new Leger-led survey of 1,000 Quebec men and women (aged 23-45) reveals there are still many misconceptions around HPV, which according to the Canadian Cancer Society is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer.i
It is estimated that as many as 75 per cent of sexually active men and women will become infected with HPV at least once in their lifetimeii. In Quebec alone, about 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, making it the third-most common cancer in women aged between 25 and 44 years.iii
Despite the strong links between HPV and cervical cancer, just 20 per cent of Quebec women surveyed said they have been vaccinated against HPV, and an additional 37.9 per cent said that they don't believe they need to be vaccinated.
"There seems to be a clear misunderstanding amongst Quebecers about what puts them at risk for HPV and cervical cancer," explained Dr. France Leduc, Obstetrician-Gynecologist. "We want to foster an informed public discourse in the province about how men and women can take action to help protect themselves from HPV-related infections and cancers."
Since it often causes no symptoms, most men and women can get HPV and pass it on without realizing it.iv About one in three Canadians diagnosed with HPV-related cancers are menv. However, about half of Quebec men (52.2 per cent) and women (47.7 per cent) surveyed incorrectly agreed with the statement that HPV is just as prevalent in males as it is in females.
One in five (20.3 per cent) Quebec women surveyed also incorrectly believe that cervical cancer is hereditary. Additionally, 58.2 per cent of women indicate a monogamous relationship as one of the top reasons they haven't been vaccinated or believe they don't need vaccination, despite most women (73.2 per cent) understanding they're still at risk for HPV even if they don't have multiple partners.
Marianne St-Gelais, a former Canadian short track speed skater and three-time Olympic silver medalist and World Champion, has a personal connection to HPV and believes it's important for women to be more conscious about their choices, including their sexual health.
"Seeing a loved one go through the shock and stress of a diagnosis and treatment related to an HPV infection made me realize the importance of prevention," explains St-Gelais. "By increasing HPV awareness, we'll empower men and women in Quebec to learn how they can help protect themselves against HPV-related diseases and cancers."
One in four Quebec women (23.2 per cent) incorrectly believe that if they've already had HPV, a vaccination can no longer help protect future infections. However, research shows that even if you are infected with one type of HPV, a vaccination can help protect you against other strains of the virus that you have not been exposed to.ii
Steps to help prevent HPV
Quebecers can take immediate action to help protect themselves from contracting HPV and developing related cancers and diseases:
- If you are sexually active, use latex condoms every time you have sex. However, it's important to know that HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom, so they may not fully protect you against HPV during sexual contact.vi
- Limit your number of sexual partners to help reduce the risk of HPV transmission.iii
- Quit smoking – smoking can make some women more at risk of having cervical cancer when infected with HPV.iii
- Regular cervical screenings are important to help prevent cervical cancer.iii
- Vaccination is one option to help prevent infections from some types of HPV covered by the vaccines.ii
- Even if you are infected with one type of HPV, vaccination can help protect you against other strains of the virus that you have not been exposed to.ii
- It is important to remember that, even if you have been vaccinated, you are still at risk for HPV strains not covered by the vaccines. In addition, vaccination does not protect everyone, and you may have already been exposed to HPV before getting vaccinated. This is why it's so important to practice safe sex and for women to have regular Pap tests.ii
For more information about HPV, patients should talk to their healthcare professional or visit www.LetsTalkHPV.ca.
About the survey
An online survey, using Leger's panel, of 1000 Quebec residents (n=700 female, n=300 male) aged 23-45 was completed between April 15 and 22, 2019 sponsored by Merck Canada Inc. Quotas were put in place to ensure readable base sizes in Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Saguenay and Trois-Rivieres regions. The margin of error for this study was +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
i Canadian Cancer Society, 2018. HPV and Cancer. Available online: http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-informed-decisions/get-vaccinated/hpv-and-cancer/?region=on (accessed July 2018)
ii Government of Canada, 2017. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Available online: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/human-papillomavirus-hpv.html (accessed June 2018)
iii Government of Quebec, 2017. Cervical Cancer. Available online: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/cancer/cervical-cancer/
iv Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. HPV and Men – CDC Fact Sheet. Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/hpvandmen-fact-sheet-february-2012.pdf (accessed July 2018)
v Canadian Cancer Society, 2016. Media backgrounder #1: HPV-associated cancers. Available online: http://www.cancer.ca/en/about-us/for-media/media-releases/national/2016/cancer-statistics-backgrounder-1/?region=on (accessed July 2018)
vi Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet. Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm (accessed June 2018)
SOURCE Merck Canada Inc.
For further information: Anthoni Roch, FleishmanHillard HighRoad, 514-798-6135, anthoni.roch@FHhighroad.com