National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week

22 November 2021

Earlier this month we marked National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week. It was a timely reminder about the impact this terrible cancer has on women in Australia and around the world. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer amongst women globally. More than half a million women are diagnosed each year and more than 300,000 women die from cervical cancer each year, often after enduring years of suffering. Three hundred thousand is an incredible number—it's even more incredible because a vaccine is available. For those who aren't vaccinated, the cancer can be successfully treated when it is detected early and appropriate care is available.

Cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus. The first vaccine to protect against cervical cancer was targeted at the HPV virus. I'm proud to say that the Gardasil vaccine was an Australian development. It is the product of work by Professors Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou while at the University of Queensland. Once Gardasil was developed and approved by the TGA it was rolled out nationally. Today more than 100 countries have their own HPV vaccination program and more than 300 million doses are administered worldwide. More work remains to be done on cervical cancer, but millions of lives have been saved and a huge amount of suffering has been avoided thanks to the work of these two remarkable Australians. National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week is an important reminder of the cruelty of cancer in our lives, but it's also a reminder about the power of science and that vaccinations alleviate suffering and improve all of our lives—a reminder that we need now more than ever.

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