Cervical Cancer is Almost Always Preventable
Anyone with a cervix is encouraged to get checked every three years with a simple test to prevent cervical cancer.
October 21 to 25 is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, and Cancer Care Ontario (in time, Ontario Health), is encouraging people to stay up-to-date with regular cervical screening.
Every year, about 750 people in Ontario will get cervical cancer and about 160 people will die from it. Getting screened regularly is important because it can find abnormal cells that could become cancer (called pre-cancers). Finding pre-cancers and treating them can prevent you from getting cancer.
The Cervical Screening Program (OCSP), recommends going for cervical screening every three years if you have a cervix, are age 21 to 69, and are or have ever been sexually active. Cervical cancer can almost always be prevented with regular cervical screening and follow-up of abnormal results.
Cervical cancer can affect anyone with a cervix who has ever been sexually active. The OCSP recommends that people should go for cervical screening even if they:
- Feel healthy and have no symptoms;
- Are no longer sexually active;
- Have only had one partner;
- Are in a same-sex relationship;
- Have been through menopause;
- Have no family history of cervical cancer; or
- Have received the HPV vaccine.
Cervical cancer is caused when a cancer-causing type of human papillomavirus (HPV) does not go away. HPV is passed from one person to another through sexual activity, which includes intercourse (sex) and digital (using the fingers) or oral (using the mouth) sexual activity involving the genitals with a partner of any sex. HPV infections are common and up to 80 percent of sexually active people will have an HPV infection in their lifetime.
There are many types of HPV infections, and some cause cell changes in the cervix which can lead to an abnormal cervical screening test result. Only cells caused by cancer-causing types of HPV can increase your risk of getting cervical cancer. If an infection from a cancer-causing type of HPV stays in the body for many years, it can lead to cervical cancer.
For more information on cervical screening, visit www.cancercareontario.ca/ccaw. To find a clinic offering cervical screening in your community during Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, visit the Federation of Medical Women of Canada.
If you do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, you can get screened at some public health units, sexual health clinics or walk-in-clinics. You can also find a family doctor or nurse practitioner through the Ministry of Health’s Health Care Connect program.