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Victoria a step closer to eliminating cervical cancer by 2030 thanks to $3 million investment

Friday 10 September, 2021

Cancer Council Victoria has dedicated $2 million to our recently established Eliminating Cervical Cancer Fund and Freemasons Foundation Victoria have partnered in the project and committed $1 million which will go towards supporting research, community engagement activities, advocacy, and communications and media campaigns to accelerate progress towards eliminating cervical cancer and to address inequities in priority populations.

“We cannot make bold steps forward like eliminating cervical cancer alone”, said Todd Harper. “We would like to sincerely thank Freemasons Foundation Victoria for their generous contribution and commitment to helping us achieve this goal.”

The elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem is a key priority for Cancer Council Victoria. Victoria could be one of the first jurisdictions in the world to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030, given we have one of the lowest cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates.

In 2019, 218 Victorians were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 48 lost their lives to the disease. Globally however, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women. In 2018, there were 570,000 new cervical cancer cases and 311,000 deaths worldwide with nearly 90% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Cancer Council Victoria has played a longstanding role in encouraging women and people with a cervix to take part in cervical screening and encouraging parents and guardians of teenage boys and girls to consent to them receiving the HPV vaccine. This has included a variety of mass media campaigns and community engagement work, with particular emphasis on reaching unscreened and under-screened populations.

The success we have achieved in the past, as well as the promise for the future, has been a great showcase for how organisations like Cancer Council Victoria can work with other researchers, partners and governments in Australia and around the world to improve health outcomes.

We hope that our commitment and leadership in this space will inspire others to prioritise the elimination of cervical cancer.

Rodney Lavin, Chairman of Freemasons Foundation Victoria, said assisting Cancer Council Victoria to eliminate cervical cancer aligns strongly with their mission to contribute to a stronger and healthier Victoria.

“We are proud to be supporting the important goal to eliminate cervical cancer within a generation, and to be partnering with a proven leader like Cancer Council Victoria. If successful, Victoria would be the first jurisdiction in the world to eliminate this horrible cancer.

We are passionate about tackling inequities and about better health outcomes for all, which is exactly what this work aims to deliver for all Victorian”, said Rodney Lavin, Chairman of Freemasons Foundation Victoria.

While significant gains have been made in Victoria, disadvantaged population groups are still dying disproportionately, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, those from migrant and/or refugee backgrounds, women and people with a cervix, with disabilities and those experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage.

“Women and people with a cervix from priority communities face a range of barriers to accessing screening, immunisation and timely treatment. We have now started tackling breaking down these barriers in Victoria. We don’t want cervical cancer to become a disease of the disadvantaged”, said Kate Broun, Head of Cancer Screening, Early Detection and Immunisation at Cancer Council Victoria.

Only 53% of eligible Victorians are taking part in cervical screening, and 83% of Victorian girls and 74% of Victorians boys are fully vaccinated against HPV.

Worryingly, screening and HPV immunisation rates are lower in some priority communities. It’s important that we eliminate cervical cancer equitably. Aboriginal and/or Torres and those from some culturally diverse backgrounds have higher rates of pre-cancer and invasive cervical cancer.

Additional and targeted efforts within a framework of self-determination are needed to work with these communities to address barriers to screening. We need new tactics to continue to move the dial, and the option we now have available for never screened and under screened women and people with a cervix aged 30 and over to self-collect for HPV is a significant tool to fast track us to eliminating cervical cancer equitably.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), to eliminate cervical cancer, jurisdictions must reach and maintain an incidence rate of below four per 100,000 women.