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Cervical Health

Cervical cancer occurs in the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). Cervical cancer is the 9th most common cancer among women in BC.
Every year in BC, approximately

  • 175 women will get cervical cancer
  • 50 women will die from the disease
  • 6,000 women will develop precancerous cells in the cervix
If caught early enough, the cure rate for cervical cancer and pre-cancer is high. Regular screening can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by 70%.

Two steps you can take to prevent cervical cancer
  • Get screened every 3 years if you are between the ages of 25 and 69.
  • Get the HPV vaccine if you are between the ages of 9 and 45.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) causes about 70% of cervical cancers. HPV is one of the most commonly sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Approximately 3 out of 4 sexually active women will get HPV at some point in their lives. 

HPV does not have any symptoms and you can pass the virus on to someone else without knowing it. HPV usually goes away without treatment. For some women, HPV will not clear on its own, and cervical cells infected with HPV can become cancerous over time. 

All women who have ever been sexually active (skin contact or intercourse) are at risk of transmitting HPV, but the risk increases if you:
  • started having sexual activity at a young age (under 18 years)
  • have had multiple sexual partners, or a sexual partner who has had multiple sexual partners
  • have a history of other sexually transmitted infections
  • have weakened immunity
  • smoke
  • do not use condoms
A Papanicolaou (Pap) test can save your life. In fact, screening can prevent 7 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer.

A Pap test looks for abnormal cells in the cervix that might develop into cancer over time. Screening helps to find these abnormal cells early when they can be easily removed.

You can get a Pap test (sometimes called a Pap smear) at your doctor's office or clinic. The test takes about 2 to 5 minutes. It may feel uncomfortable, but a Pap test usually doesn’t hurt.

Watch BC Cancer’s video What is a Pap Test to learn more about screening for cervical cancer.

The  HPV vaccine can protect you against two high risk HPV types that cause 70 out of 100 cases of cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine also protects you from genital warts (the most common sexually transmitted infection), some head and neck cancers and penile (penis) cancer  in men.

There are two vaccines, recommended for use in Canada which protect against infection from particular HPV strains. The vaccine Gardasil® protects against 4 strains of the virus. The vaccine Cervarix® protects against 2 virus strains.

Gardasil is free for BC girls and women born in 1994 and later. It is given to girls through the school system in grade 6 or through your health care provider.

The HPV vaccine is also available free to men who have a high risk of HPV infection, such as men who have sex with men 26 years of age or younger, have HIV infection, are in youth custody services or are street-involved.

The vaccine is recommended, but not free, for:
  • adult women up to 45 years of age
  • boys and men 9 to 26 years of age
  • men 27 years of age and older who have sex with men
Regular Pap tests are still necessary for women who have had the HPV vaccine.

Visit for more information about HPV.

HPV – which is the cause of cervical cancer – can be passed from woman to woman as well as between men and women.

Studies show that lesbian, bisexual and other queer women are less likely to go to the doctor because of actual or feared discrimination and mistreatment, and hence may face a higher risk of cervical cancer.

Trans women (MTFs) with a history of genital warts and/or who have had bottom surgery, may be at risk for cervical cancer.

Trans men (FTMs) who have had their cervix removed but have a history of cervical cancer are also at risk.

For more information visit:

SOURCE: Cervical Health ( )
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