Apart from enjoying the sunshine, great company and the World Cup, one of the points of this little jaunt is to raise awareness about the prevention (and elimination) of cervical cancer. And the great thing is that there’s tons happening. My guess is that this is one of the fastest evolving areas in public health. So every now and again I’ll pull together a few updates:
· The main recent news, widely reported, is that a large trial showed that HPV testing doubles the chances of finding pre-cancerous cervical cancer cells, compared to the pap smear – and can be done less frequently. HPV testing is easier and more accurate than the pap smear. It is likely that more countries will introduce protocols involving HPV testing, supplemented by pap smears. For women testing negative for HPV, testing will probably become less frequent. In more rich countries where pap smears are used for screening, around 30% of women do not go for screening at all, or are late. These women account for most of the late stage cervical cancer cases. Because HPV testing is much simpler, this offers an opportunity to increase screening coverage.
· Public Health England reported that HPV infection fell by 86% among girls who were eligible for HPV vaccination between 2010 and 2016 – these are similar percentages to other countries which have had successful HPV vaccination programs.
· Awareness: “Dancing with the Stars” host Erin Andrews has taken up the cause of raising awareness about preventing cervical cancer.
· A doctor used the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) to treat a patient with skin cancer successfully.
· Antigua started vaccinating girls against HPV last month.
· In the UK, it is expected that there will be an announcement soon that the HPV vaccination will be extended to boys.