Cervical Cancer

Concerns with the Canadian Task Force Guidelines

The Task Force’s 2013 guideline does not recommend HPV screening.

In 2013, while gynaecology experts recommended Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) screening, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care published cervical cancer screening guidelines that stated the evidence supporting HPV testing as the primary method of cervical screening was not robust and required further analysis. This was despite the preliminary results of our own Canadian HPV FOCAL trial, the largest North American trial, were published 3 years previous that supported HPV testing and had improved cost-effectiveness and outcomes compared to standard PAP screening.

Ongoing results from this trial and other international trials published over the following 5 years continued to strongly support HPV testing as the primary, cost-effective method of cervical cancer screening. There were repeated calls from Canadian experts to push for Canada to change to HPV testing but as of early 2024, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care has not revised this guideline.

As a result, Canada lags behind other countries like Australia, the Netherlands, and the U.K., which began HPV screening as early as 2017. Australia’s successful HPV screening and vaccination program is leading it towards becoming the first country to eradicate cervical cancer, while Canada’s outdated guidelines continue to contribute to preventable cases of cervical cancer. In fact, cervical cancer has been identified as the fastest growing cancer in women, with incidence rising at a rate of 3.7% per year since 2015. There are up to date HPV guidelines written by experts in the field of gynaecology and should immediately be endorsed.

For Expert-Recommended Guidelines, please click here.

Shannon Salvador, MD, MSc, FRCSC
Associate Professor, McGill University
Gynecologic Oncologist, Jewish General Hospital
President, The Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada