Vaccines are one of the most important inventions in healthcare and have contributed to preventing the spread of many diseases. As more people get vaccinated, the risk of getting the disease is reduced. Did you know that some vaccines can even help prevent cancers, including cervical cancer, the third most common cancer in young Canadian women 20–40 years old? Here are some things you need to know about cervical cancer and HPV vaccination.
What is HPV?
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a common sexually transmitted virus. If you’ve ever been sexually active (and even if you’re in a monogamous relationship), you are at risk. It’s estimated that three in four sexually active Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Because you can be infected and have zero signs or symptoms, it’s easy to unwittingly pass it on. And while some people infected with HPV will clear the virus on their own, some others won’t, which can lead to cervical cancer or other HPV-related cancers and diseases.
HPV is responsible for nearly 100 percent of cervical cancer cases.
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in Canadian women aged 20 to 40. Every year, some 1,400 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in Canada. When a woman is infected with certain types of HPV and the virus doesn’t clear on its own, abnormal and precancerous cervical lesions can develop. Pap tests look for these abnormal cells, but if they aren’t detected early and treated, cervical cancer could develop.
Spoiler alert: You are not invincible.
Shortly after giving birth at 27, Heather* was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was, to put it mildly, a shock. “I was at the peak of happiness in my life. In your twenties, you think you’re invincible; you definitely don’t think it could all be flipped upside down.” If it can happen to her—and to an estimated 1,400 Canadian women every year—it can happen to you.
Today, Heather is working to raise awareness about cancers that are caused by HPV because there are vaccines out there that can actually help protect you from certain cancer diagnoses.
So, why wait?
HPV vaccines like GARDASIL®9 can help protect against certain HPV types that may lead to cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers and diseases. Vaccination against HPV could be covered by your insurance or even be free through the public immunization program (check with your private insurance provider or your local health agency to find out more. Public coverage varies by province/territory and by age).
Help take control of the things you can. If you’re a woman aged 18 to 45, get vaccinated to help prevent cervical cancer.
To learn more, visit www.GARDASIL9.ca and watch Heather and other Canadian women share their C-stories.
*Actual Canadian cervical cancer patient. May not be representative of all patients.
GARDASIL®9 helps protect girls and women 9 through 45 years of age against cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers caused by HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 and genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11. GARDASIL®9 does not treat HPV infection or cervical cancer and may not protect everyone who gets vaccinated. Women should still get routine cervical cancer screening. Not recommended for use in pregnant women. Side effects and allergic reactions can occur.
® Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Used under license.
© 2021 Merck Canada Inc. All rights reserved.