This International Women’s Day, Cancer Council NSW is celebrating the woman who is spearheading the global elimination of cervical cancer, Professor Karen Canfell.
Professor Canfell is the Director of The Daffodil Centre at Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney whose research is helping Australia become one of the first countries in the world to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem. However, Canfell isn’t stopping there. She and her team at the Daffodil Centre are supporting global efforts to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide.
Professor Canfell’s research underpinned the 2017 transition of Australia’s National Cervical Screening Program from Pap smears to five-yearly HPV-based screening tests. She is currently leading research for the World Health Organization (WHO) to model the impact of scaling up HPV vaccination and cervical screening in low- and middle-income countries, where cervical cancer mortality rates are unacceptably high.
Her work as one of the co-leads of the WHO Cervical Cancer Elimination Modelling Consortium supported the formal resolution by WHO to support the cervical cancer elimination initiative, launched in late 2020.
Professor Canfell said that while we are on track to meet our target of eliminating cervical cancer within Australia by 2035, we need to ensure health inequities are addressed and that women all around the world have access to screening.
“While Australia has one of the world’s lowest cervical cancer rates, we can build on our successes and further reduce cervical cancer by doing more to reach priority populations – particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and others who we know are less likely to participate in cervical screening,” said Professor Canfell.
Participation in cervical cancer screening is significantly lower in disadvantaged groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those experiencing socioeconomic barriers. A universal option to use self-collection (when a woman takes her own sample for cervical screening) will give these people more choice and control in the screening process.
“Research shows that self-collection is a safe and effective way to increase program participation, especially in the populations where we know screening rates are lower.
“Here in Australia, from this July all women can have the option to use self-collection. This is a great step forward, but people overdue for a screening test should not delay and are urged to talk with their doctor as they may be eligible to collect their own sample for screening now,” concluded Professor Canfell.