I’m a researcher at Cancer Council NSW – I’m the Program Manager in the Cervix/HPV & Breast Group. I’ve been working here for over 8 years and have been in the area of cervical screening for 20 years.
A lot of my research is focused on cervical cancer. Virtually all cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common viral infection, affecting at least 75 per cent of sexually active adults at some time in their life. Most people will have no symptoms, and the body’s immune system will clear the HPV infection without treatment; but in some people the virus can persist and cause abnormalities, or in some cases cancer. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, but only about 15 that cause cancer.
There is a lot we can do to prevent cervical cancer, such as cervical screening and vaccination against HPV. My research focuses on how best to do this, for example the best way to combine current and new HPV vaccines with screening. My group and I do this using both health data, and simulation models which can predict the impact of different policy decisions.
Our work on policy evaluations has directly informed policy in Australia, New Zealand and England, including decisions in all three of these countries to move to HPV-based cervical screening – a change that is great news for all women, because HPV-based screening is more effective than Pap testing and so doesn’t need to be done as frequently. The new screening program is expected to save up to 30% more lives than the current program of 2-yearly Pap smears.
With this group, I also contributed to the recent development of updated clinical management guidelines for the renewed National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) in Australia, as well as other projects looking at the effects and opportunities of the renewed NCSP.
I look forward to Girls’ Night In – it’s a great way to raise funds for research into women’s cancers, and show support for the estimated 20,000 women who will be diagnosed with a breast or gynaecological cancer this year.