Your lifestyle helps contribute to your overall health. Here are a few ways to reduce your risk and ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect your cervical health.
One way to protect yourself from HPV is by getting vaccinated. There are two HPV vaccines available in Canada: Gardasil and Cervarix. Both vaccines protect against HPV-16 and HPV-18 the two strains that account for 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical cell changes. However, Gardasil also protects against 90% of genital and anal warts, anal cancers, vulva and vaginal cancers and some oral cancers. Gardasil has also been tested for use on males, whereas Cervarix has not.
The vaccines work by stimulating the body to produce antibodies against the types of HPV they target. Antibodies prevent HPV infections and therefore the diseases associated with these HPV types. The vaccines are preventative and do not treat HPV.
The vaccine is most effective when given to young people before they are sexually active. This is because the vaccine is only effective for HPV strains that you haven’t been exposed to yet. So while you can get vaccinated after you have been sexually active, you likely won’t be protected from some strains of HPV.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that the HPV vaccine can be given to:
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization approves Gardasil for boys and young men to prevent anal cancer, precancerous cells and anogenital warts. For more information, visit cancer.ca.
Ontario does not currently have a voluntary school-based HPV vaccination program for boys.
Gardasil and Cervarix are given by an injection into an arm muscle. Doses are administered 3 times over a 6-month period.
You can get the vaccine by:
Talk to your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine and what’s right for you.
The vaccination is free of charge for young women between grades 8 and 12 through a voluntary Ontario-wide program.
For women who cannot participate in the free program, the vaccine costs $475 in total. Most private insurance does not cover the HPV vaccine.
Yes. Even if you are vaccinated against HPV, you still need to have a Pap test regularly. The vaccines prevent infection from HPV types associated with only 70% of cervical cancer. About 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccines. The HPV vaccine should be used along with, not instead of, cervical cancer screening.
More information on the HPV vaccine can be found here.