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Dr. Johnson, President of FMWC Discusses HPV and the World’s First HPV Prevention Week

Hear from Dr. Bev Johnson, President of the Federation of Medical on the World’s First HPV Prevention Week and her tips on HPV Prevention!


As an Ottawa Community Family Physician and President of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, I am excited to share with you the news about Canada’s First HPV Prevention Week, Oct 1–7, 2017. We are the first country in the world to devote a week to prevention of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Our mission is to close the preventative care gap and work towards eradicating HPV. Canadian health care professionals and Canadians are leading the world with this campaign. The Federation of a Medical Women of Canada went to Parliament May 30, 2017 to get approval of Parliament for the National HPV Prevention Week.

HPV — Human Papilloma Virus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in Canadian Adults. HPV is a contagious virus that can affect anyone who has ever had a sexual encounter with penetration and also by skin to skin contact with vulva, vagina, anus, penis and scrotum. Spread can occur by touching or kissing a partner’s genitals. There are more than 100 types of HPV although only some strains cause warts and cancer. For many patients, the virus will just resolve on its own. If the virus persists it can cause precancerous and cancer lesions in males and females. This is a key point I want you to know — HPV is a major cause of genital warts and six kinds of cancer. These include cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile oral pharyngeal and anal cancer. HPV-related cancer occurs in both women and men, with 2/3 of cancers in women and 1/3 in men.

Just how common is this? You may not know that more than 75% of sexually active Canadians have had the HPV virus at some point. When we share these statistics Canadians are shocked. I was shocked. My patients are shocked. A virus can cause cancer! HPV can cause so many kinds of cancer.

Let’s now talk about prevention and our HPV vaccine.

In Canada, vaccines against HPV were available in 2006. We have come a long way since 2006, now all provinces and territories provide the vaccine for free to male and female students. This recent expansion of the program to include all genders is just so important. We, at the Federation of Medical Women, are so excited about this. Yet, as amazing as this is, you have to know that HPV risk correlates with sexual activity and can affect people of any age and any gender. Older age is linked with persistence and progression of HPV infection. The HPV vaccine is available for people of any age and any gender. Have a conversation with your family physician or healthcare provider about getting the vaccine. It is best to get HPV vaccine as a student, I advise my patients of any age who are sexually active to get the vaccine. 40 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given worldwide. The vaccine is both safe and effective. Numerous clinical studies have shown that the most common side effect is pain at the injection site. The vaccine is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have certain immune conditions. The widely used Gardasil 9 Vaccine offers protection against HPV types: 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 and will offer protection for up to 90% of cervical cancers. Even though the HPV vaccine offers great protection for the majority of strains that cause cervical cancer, it is still important to still screen regularly as recommended by your provincial guidelines.

In closing, I want to share one woman’s advice. Beth Dangerfield was 37 years old when she learned she had early stage cervical cancer (a more severe form of pre-cancer on the cervix). After treatment, she mentioned that “there are so many things I didn’t know about the virus, I didn’t know there is an HPV vaccine that was approved and recommended in Canada for adults”

So, call your Family Doctor, pharmacist or healthcare provider now. It may cost you to get the vaccine because it’s not publicly funded for adults, but it’s best method out there to prevent cancers cause by HPV! Ask about getting the HPV vaccine and let’s prevent cancer!

Read about HPV Prevention Week Facts on fmwc.ca https://fmwc.ca/events/hpv-prevention-week-2017/

Beverly Johnson MD CCFP
President Federation of Medical Women of Canada

From time to time, we invite guest experts to share their professional opinions and thoughts on our blog. Views, opinions, and positions expressed within these posts are those of the author alone, and do not represent those of Eve Medical.