Most cervical cancers are caused by certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is transmitted by sexual contact (not just by sexual intercourse). Although HPV is very common and will usually go away on its own, for some women an HPV infection can cause serious problems. Over time, the HPV can cause cells in the cervix to become abnormal and eventually to become cervical cancer.
Regular screening of the cervix is the best way to find abnormal cells early when they can be easily removed. Regular screening is free in British Columbia, and can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by 70 percent. To find out more about cervical cancer screening, call the Cervical Cancer Screening Program at 604-877-6200 or click here.
HPV vaccines can prevent the two most common types of HPV responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer. Girls and women are best protected when they get the HPV vaccine before they become sexually active.
The HPV vaccine is currently available for purchase from clinics and family physicians. Starting in the Fall of 2008, female students in British Columbia entering grades 6 and 9 will be eligible to receive the HPV vaccination for free.
Those women who receive the HPV vaccine still need regular screening once they become sexually active. The vaccine does not prevent all types of cancer-causing HPV and does not protect those who were already infected with HPV before vaccination.
To find out more about HPV, talk to a family physician, visit the HealthlinkBC at www.healthlinkbc.ca or call 8-1-1 in the Greater Vancouver area or 604-215-8110.