Sexually transmitted infections
Calculating the impact of the HPV vaccine
(NC)-Each year in Canada, approximately 400 women die of cervical
cancer and another 1,400 are diagnosed with the disease. But
that is about to change.
In 2006, Health Canada approved a vaccine that protects against
four strains of human papillomavirus (HPV)
that are responsible for causing 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Soon after, provincial governments began introducing HPV immunization
programs. Will the new vaccine really be as effective as many
hope? How long will it take for cervical cancer rates to come
New vaccines always bring hope, but the success of a vaccine
depends on many factors, such as the number of people who decide
to get vaccinated. Early numbers suggest that vaccine uptake has
varied widely from province to province. With the help of funding
from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Dr. Christopher
Bauch at the University of Guelph, his students and co-investigators
are constructing a computer model that could help us anticipate
the changes that will come with the HPV vaccine.
"The vaccine will reduce the number of cases of cervical
cancer, but we're not sure how large the reduction will be
or how quickly it will happen." says Bauch. "We can't
predict the future, but computer models can help us project what
Public health officials will be able to use Bauch's model to
estimate how cervical cancer rates will change and which women
will benefit most from the immunization campaigns. The result
is reduced health-care costs and more targeted treatment.
For example, if a large number of women decide to roll up their
sleeves for the HPV vaccine, this could help change screening
recommendations for cervical cancer. Currently, Health Canada
recommends that women have a Pap smear
every three years (or more frequently if they have specific risk
factors) to help catch the disease in its early stages.
"If the vaccine reduces the incidence of cervical cancer
by a large percentage, it might be sufficient for most women to
be screened every five years. Then we could take the money that
we save on screening and use it to create outreach programs for
women who are less likely to be screened or who have a particularly
high risk of developing cervical
cancer," explains Bauch.
Bauch emphasizes that, for now, it is very important that all
women continue to follow the current screening recommendations.
But with the help of his research, we may be able to look forward
to a future without cervical cancer.
Courtesy News Canada