Cervical cancer screening in Canada: Environmental scan (2019-2020)

Highlights of cervical cancer screening programs’ activities and strategies

The Partnership collects information on national, provincial, and territorial cervical screening guidelines, strategies, and activities. The information for this cervical cancer screening report was collected in June and July 2019. Many provinces and territories provided updated data in early 2020, and this report was updated in November 2020.

Quick facts from this cervical cancer screening report

  • Organized cervical screening programs are available in eight provinces. There are no organized programs in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Québec or Prince Edward Island. As of 2019, Yukon continues to plan for the implementation of a cervical screening program.
  • Provinces and territories recommend that cervical screening begin at age 21 or 25, continue until age 65 to 70, and occur every two to three years.
  • Cervical screening programs in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have increased their screening start age to 25 to reflect Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care recommendations. Plans to increase screening start age to 25 are being implemented in Ontario and Yukon and are under consideration in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • The Pap test is used as an entry level screening test for cervical cancer, utilizing liquid-based cytology or conventional cytology.
  • Ontario and Prince Edward Island are actively planning the implementation of HPV testing for primary screening and it is under consideration in British Columbia and Québec.
  • Several provinces and territories have begun to implement or pilot HPV testing for the purposes of triage or follow-up after treatment.
  • HPV vaccination is offered to children in all provinces and territories between grades 4 and 7.
  • All provinces and territories have extended eligibility programs for HPV vaccination.
  • Eleven Canadian jurisdictions report implementing strategies to increase participation in cervical screening among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.
  • Seven provinces have implemented strategies to help support cervical screening participation in underscreened populations.

Elimination of cervical cancer in Canada

The Partnership has coordinated efforts with a broad group of partners, experts and stakeholders, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations and patients to create the Action Plan for the Elimination Cervical Cancer in Canada, 2020-2030 (Action Plan), which engages partners across the country in work to eliminate cervical cancer in Canada by 2040.

Preventing cancer and identifying it early and accurately are essential to saving lives and are key priorities of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control 2019-2029. The Action Plan calls on partners to strengthen existing screening efforts and adopt equitable, high-quality approaches to cervical screening, including implementing programmatic HPV primary screening across Canada, ensure equity in cervical screening participation and implement self-sampling within organized screening programs.

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