Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable and highly curable when found and treated early.
The World Health Organization has set the goal to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide this century and Canada’s Minister of Health committed the country to achieving this. The Partnership has been working with partners across the country to develop the Action Plan for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer in Canada.
Preventing cancer and identifying it early and accurately are essential to saving lives and are key priorities of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control 2019-2029. The Partnership has coordinated efforts with a broad group of partners, experts and stakeholders, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations and patients to create the Action Plan to Eliminate Cervical Cancer in Canada, 2020-2030, which engages partners across the country in work to eliminate cervical cancer in Canada by 2040.
COVID-19 and its impact on health care and cancer services makes it even more important to accelerate efforts to eliminate cervical cancer as outlined in the Action Plan, such as improving HPV vaccination rates and replacing traditional Pap testing with HPV primary screening. This will both modernize cervical cancer screening while reducing people’s contact with the health system. In the absence of traditional school-based HPV immunization, there are opportunities to adapt these programs to reach more youth across Canada.
HPV screening will enable self-sampling at home and appropriate follow-up for abnormal screening results, so that more people in more locations can access screening and treatment—breaking down barriers that currently prevent real equity of access and outcomes in cervical cancer. The Action Plan will also help improve HPV vaccination rates as well as standardize data collection and reporting to help us pinpoint where there are inequities that Canada must address and determine areas for quality and program improvement.
Current state of cervical cancer in Canada
Cervical cancer remains a major concern. Each year, more than 1,300 people in Canada are diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 400 die from the disease. What’s more, cervical cancer cases are higher in some populations, including people living in rural or remote areas, people with low income, and First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Addressing these inequities is critical. Cervical cancer will only be eliminated if everyone in Canada has equitable access to the highest quality prevention and care.
This ambitious goal requires immediate action
The work ahead for the Partnership and the country is co-creating and funding implementation plans with and for underserved populations, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, to increase HPV immunization, transition to HPV screening with self-sampling, and enhance abnormal screen follow-up practices across Canada.
Achieving this ambitious goal requires sustained efforts from the Partnership and partners to drive impact and enable collective success in longer term health system transformation across the country.
Read more about the action plan’s priorities, targets and actions.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis priorities and Peoples-specific actions related to cervical cancer prevention and care
First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners identified the following Peoples-specific priorities and actions to address the specific inequities that First Nations, Inuit and Métis may experience as a result of historic and ongoing colonization. It is important to note that First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are already leading efforts to address these longstanding barriers and inequities and improve cervical cancer prevention and care.
Read more about the priorities and actions identified by First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
This project is the first step to understanding where our systems can improve to reach under-immunized populations across Canada and reach the HPV immunization coverage targets needed to achieve this goal. This work will help with building resilient and sustainable public health systems in Canada.
UPHN represents local public health units from 23 of the largest cities in Canada. Along with the Rural, Remote and Northern Public Health Network and the Public Health Physicians of Canada, our coalition of local public health leaders are eager to work with the Partnership towards the elimination of cervical cancer.
-Dr. Cory Neudorf, President, Urban Public Health Network