03 March 2021
Women in Jersey are being encouraged to "Beat your fear and get your smear", as part of HPV Awareness Day on 4 March.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection passed between people through skin-to-skin and sexual contact, which can affect genitals, mouth, or throat.
HPV is the world's most prevalent sexually transmitted infection and 80% of people will contract the HPV virus at some point in their lives. Around 90% of cervical cancer cases are HPV-related.
To raise awareness, staff from Health and Community Services have organised a fundraising walk from the Parish Hall in St Aubin to the Royal Yacht on Saturday 20 March in aid of two local cancer charities: Macmillan Cancer Support and Jersey Cancer Relief. The walk will be socially distanced, and people will be leaving at five-minute intervals with no more than ten people in each group. A JustGiving page has also been set-up for donations.
Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Kathy Gillies said: "Most people don't think the virus affects them and most will be unaware they have it, which increases the risk of HPV-related cancer. It's important that we all understand and manage these risks and we are encouraging women to beat their fear and get their smear for HPV Awareness Day."
HPV is preventable and the cancer risks from HPV avoidable, says Dr Gilles: "There are actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of HPV-related disease and thankfully, more and more people are making the connection between HPV and certain cancers, such as cervical cancer. Effective vaccines are available and cervical screening programmes can identify the virus and spot cell changes that are precursors to cancer."
Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Carol Bisson said: "HPV is carried by men as well as women, and males are also at risk of HPV-related cancers. Everyone is potentially affected by HPV - and everyone can do something to reduce the risks simply by sharing information and having a conversation about HPV. Awareness and education are important first steps toward prevention."
Most HPV infections in men are evidenced by the appearance of one or more warts in the genital area, thighs, groin, or anus. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact their GP for tests.
Smear tests for women start from the age of 25 and are every three years until the age of 49, unless there are symptoms. From the age of 50, smear tests are every five years. Women are urged to contact their GP if they are overdue.
In addition, there is also an education and vaccination programme in schools. The HPV 2 dose school vaccination programme is offered to all year 8 pupils in Jersey by FNHC.