A new cervix self-screening program is being introduced across British Columbia, offering people improved access to cervical cancer screening. This program, the first of its kind in Canada, includes the option for individuals to perform the screening at home.
What to expect?
Starting from January 29, 2024, women and individuals aged 25 to 69 who have a cervix have the option to request a kit for self-screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer. Alternatively, they can choose to have their screening sample collected by a healthcare professional.
Cervical cancer worldwide and in Canada
Cervical cancer ranks as the fourth most prevalent cancer in women worldwide. In Canada, rates of cervical cancer are rapidly rising among females. Fortunately, it is a preventable disease through vaccination and screening initiatives. High-risk HPV is responsible for 99% of cervical cancers.
Difference between pap testing and HPV testing
Dr. Gina Ogilvie, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Control of HPV-related Diseases and Prevention at the University of British Columbia, and affiliate scientist at BC Cancer, explained, “While pap tests identify changes in cervix cells caused by HPV, HPV testing can detect the presence of high-risk HPV types before these cell changes occur. Cervix self-screening is more effective and safe and easy, helping prevent many unnecessary deaths.”
Transition to HPV testing as a primary screening method
In addition to introducing the self-screening program, the Province is adopting HPV testing as its primary screening method due to its ability to detect the virus before it progresses to cancer, offering increased accuracy and accessibility compared to the current primary screening method, Pap tests.
The transition to HPV screening by healthcare providers will be implemented gradually over the next three years, beginning with individuals aged 55 and older. Starting at the end of January, all self-collected samples will be processed using HPV testing.
Who is eligible?
Screening is advisable for those who:
- Have a cervix, including women and TTGD (Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse) individuals
- Are between 25 and 69 years old
- Haven’t had a Pap test in the last three years or more, or haven’t completed HPV testing in the past five years or more