Joe Jones has only a hand full of photos to remember his mother, Vaunda Jones, who passed away from cervical cancer in August.
That’s why he’s pleading for more women to get tested for the disease, and for the province to be more proactive in its prevention.
“I have a picture of her of me holding her hand, and it’s the last picture that I have and I figured that I would have another 25 years with her,” Jones said.
Jones says his 61-year-old mother wasn’t tested for cervical cancer for about 30 years, and by the time she discovered she had the disease, it was too late.
“All because of a stupid test,” Jones said, as he wiped away the tears at his home in Lower Coverdale.
According to the Department of Health, about 30 New Brunswick women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year — 10 will die from the disease.
Yet statistics also show that only about 65 per cent of women in the province aged 21 to 69 had at least one Pap test between 2010 and 2013.
Jones says that’s not enough.
He’s also calling on the province to expand its provincial human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program to include boys. HPV, which can be transmitted through sexual contact, is known to cause cervical cancer as well and a six other cancers, including penile cancer in boys.
“I don’t understand why half is OK, why just get the girls done if both are equally responsible in a round-about way,” Jones said.
In 2008, as part a cervical cancer screening and prevention strategy, New Brunswick started offering girls in Grade 7 publicly funded HPV vaccines through school immunization programs.
“The expansion of the current publicly funded HPV vaccination program to include boys is under consideration by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health,” said health department spokesperson, Sarah Bustard.
But Bustard did not give a timeline for if and when the province may start including boys in the vaccination program.
“The provincial cervical cancer prevention and screening program is reaching out to women who have never had a Pap test or are overdue for a follow up exam by sending them letters reminding them of the importance of screening,” Bustard said.
Jones says he knows it is unusual for a man to speak out about cervical cancer but says he has “absolutely no problem being the face of cervical cancer” if it might help save someone else’s mom.