Frequently Asked Questions
Human Papillomavirus and Cervical Cancer
What is Human Papillomavirus?
Human papillomavirus or HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer.
How many types of HPV exist?
There are more than 100 forms of HPV. There are two major groups of HPV, low risk and high risk. Most types of the HPV are “low risk” and can disappear without a problem. Around 15 types of HPV are “high risk” which means the HPV may lead to cancer if the body cannot get rid of the virus. High risk types of HPV cause almost all cancers of the cervix. HPV can also cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, as well as head and neck cancers. Low risk types of HPV might cause problems like common warts and genital warts
Is intercourse the only way to spread the virus?
The virus can be spread from skin to skin contact between sexual partners.
Do both men and women get HPV?
Men and women both get the virus. Both men and women can pass on the virus through sexual intercourse and skin contact.
How do you know if you have the virus?
You might not be able to tell if you have the virus. There are no signs or symptoms. The only way to know for sure if you have HPV is by taking an HPV test at your doctor’s office.
How common is the virus?
Approximately 3 out of 4 adults will have the HPV virus at least once during their lifetime. Most people will contract HPV before the age of 50, but the body normally gets rid of it.
What does it mean if you have HPV?
Most of the time, HPV does not cause any problems. Usually the body is able to get rid of the virus without any problems. In rare cases, the body does not get rid of HPV. Some low-risk HPV types can lead to genital warts if untreated. Some high risk types of HPV can lead to more serious health concerns, such as cervical cancer.
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are hard, raised bumps in the genital area. They can be found on both male and female genital areas.
Can genital warts turn into cancer?
Genital warts do not lead to cancer. Different types of HPV are related to genital warts. They might cause irritation and itchiness. They can be removed surgically if they are bothersome.
How can you know if you have HPV?
You can ask the doctor to do an HPV test. This test involves a swab taken from your vagina which is then sent to a lab to be checked. These cells will be tested for the virus.
How is routine cervical cancer screening done?
A doctor or nurse practitioner will do a test called a Pap Test. A pap test is where the doctor looks directly at the cervix using a speculum. The doctor is looking for abnormal cells. He then takes a sample and sends it to the lab to check for abnormal cells.
Who should be screened for cervical cancer?
All women who are sexually active should be screened every 3 years starting at age 21.
Why should I have a Pap test?
Since Pap tests have been done cervical cancer deaths have decreased by half. If cervical cancer is found early, it can be treated.
Why is there more cervical cancer in First Nations women?
First Nations women are less likely to be screened for cervical cancer. This may be why First Nations women are more likely to get cervical cancer.
Can I be vaccinated against HPV?
In 2006, an HPV vaccine was authorized in Canada for use in 9 to 26 year old females. In 2011 it was approved for use in women up to 45 years of age. The vaccine prevents infection with the more common types of HPV. Anyone who is interested in this vaccination should discuss their options with their health care provider.
The Anishinaabek Cervical Cancer Screening Study (ACCSS)
What is ACCSS?
ACCSS is a project that explores cervical cancer screening in First Nations women. 10 First Nations communities around Lake Nipigon and Lake Superior are part of this project. The Research Team is centered in Thunder Bay at the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute.
Although the ACCSS has completed the first round of screening, future screening events are being planned for summer 2017.
Screening in 2017:
What does it mean to participate?
If you are an eligible women, you may meet with your local cervical screening representative. They will help you through an informed consent form and a questionnaire. After you have given consent and completed the questionnaire, the representative will organize cervical screening for you.
Who is eligible?
We are looking for women:
Which communities are participating?
Animbiigo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek (Lake Nipigon)
Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (Rocky Bay)
Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (Sand Point)
Fort William First Nation
Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (Gull Bay)
Long Lake #58 First Nation
Pays Plat First Nation
Pic Mobert First Nation
Red Rock First Nation (Lake Helen)
Whitesand First Nation
Are there risks with participating in the ACCSS?
Some women may feel discomfort when collecting their own HPV sample. Some women may feel embarrassed when talking about a sexually transmitted virus. We have a helpline, email and webmail for women to ask questions without giving their name. Some women might feel scared or nervous to learn about their screening results. Your local Cervical Screening Representative, local health care providers, and the Research Team can try to help with your concerns.
What are the benefits for participating in the ACCSS?
As a participant you will help inform culturally sensitive cervical screening programs in your community and in Ontario. Cervical screening can help find high risk changes in the cervix that could lead to cancer. By finding these changes early, you and your health care provider can cope with problems before they become serious. Cervical screening might help find cancer that has already started. You might worry less about your health by learning your cervical cancer screening results. We also hope to communicate our findings to a broad audience. We hope that we can help change cervical screening guidelines and health promotion programming.
Are there incentives for participating?
Incentives for the next screening phase have yet to be determined. In the previous trial there were chances to win $50 gift cards (Wal-Mart or grocery store),t-shirts, mugs and grand prizes.
Once I sign up, can I withdraw?
Participation in this research project is voluntary. If you agree to participate you will be given a copy of the consent form to keep. You may refuse to participate or may withdraw at a later time. If you withdraw from the project at a later date you can still keep the gift card. Please note, that once the results have been published, withdrawal is no longer possible.
Is my information kept private?
We take your privacy and protecting the confidentiality of the information you provide seriously. We follow strict practices that direct how your information is collected, who can see your information and how that information will be used. If you decide to complete the questionnaire, your personal information (i.e. your name and contact information) will be replaced with a unique code. This unique code will let us store your data while allowing us to keep your identity confidential.