Eliminating cervical cancer in Canada

Progress on HPV primary screening in Canada

Cervical screening in Canada has come a long way, but there is still work to do. It was estimated that in 2023, 1,550 Canadian women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 400 died from it.1 HPV infection causes almost all cervical cancers. HPV tests detect cervical pre-cancer earlier and better than the Pap test and can reduce the number of people who get the disease.

Hear from Erika Nicholson, Vice President of Cancer Systems and Innovation at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, on the importance of HPV immunization and testing.

All Canadian provinces and most territories are planning for HPV primary screening.

Activities towards HPV primary screening implementation include:

  • developing business and operational plans for switching from Pap tests to HPV tests for cervical screening;
  • exploring HPV self-screening, where a person can collect the sample themselves in their preferred setting;
  • establishing HPV primary screening pathways and related clinical guidelines;
  • optimizing laboratory services and processes to support follow-up for participants with a positive HPV test;
  • creating public and provider awareness and education materials on HPV primary screening;
  • engaging community partners to better understand ways to improve screening participation and timely follow-up;
  • building relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners to enhance awareness and access to culturally safe and appropriate cervical screening information and services;
  • establishing data infrastructure and determining data gaps such as linkages between HPV vaccination status, screening results and follow-up management to promote a high-quality continuum of care;
  • designing and implementing innovative and alternative pathways for people to obtain screening tests to increase access to and uptake of screening.

Story of progress

British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island are using innovative approaches to offer HPV primary screening in their province

In May 2023, Prince Edward Island became the first province in Canada to implement HPV primary screening and make HPV tests available across the province. While participants currently access HPV primary screening through cervical screening clinics and primary care providers, work is underway to implement HPV self-screening starting in 2024.

As of January 2024, British Columbia launched Canada’s first HPV self-screening program for cervical cancer as part of the transition to HPV primary screening through the BC Cancer Cervix Screening Program. People have a choice in how they receive cervical screening across the province. They can request a self-screening kit online or by phone that can be used at home or they can see a provider for their screening sample to be taken. As part of the program, those without a primary healthcare provider who receive a positive HPV test result are connected with a clinic in their community for follow-up care.

Ontario is making significant system-level changes to the Ontario Cervical Screening Program to support the launch of HPV primary screening starting in 2025 as part of a province-wide, organized screening program. As of January 2024, Ontario has procured the HPV test system vendor and laboratory partners and has approved evidence-based recommendations for cervical screening and colposcopy with HPV primary screening and co-testing at their core, based on published literature and the Ontario context.

Cancer screening programs and services in PEI are making advances to try to meet the patient where they are, building trust in relationships with providers and looking at opportunities to do things close to home.

Marla Delaney, Provincial Cancer Coordinator, Health PEI

HPV screening in Canada, 2024

Hover over each province and territory for HPV screening status including self-screening.

Planning for implementation
Partial implementation
Jurisdiction-wide implementation
No current activities
Data table and footnotes

  1. Canadian Cancer Society. Cervical cancer statistics [Internet]. Canadian Cancer Society; 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Available from: https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-types/cervical/statistics.