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Together, we can eliminate cervical cancer in Victoria

“As soon as the doctor said you have cervical cancer, my world just fell away. Everything became a blur and all I could think about were my children,” Abbey said. 

It had been over a decade since her last Cervical Screening Test when Abbey found herself facing a cervical cancer diagnosis. 

Cervical Cancer survivor, Abbey

Cervical cancer survivor, Abbey with her son

 In June 2023, Abbey, a busy single mum of three, began experiencing continuous and abnormal bleeding outside of her regular period. 

After a Cervical Screening Test recommended by her doctor detected some abnormal cell changes, Abbey was referred to a gynaecologist for further testing. 

Three weeks and a biopsy later, Abbey was diagnosed with cervical cancer. 

“As soon as the doctor said you have cervical cancer, my world just fell away,” she said. 

Everything became a blur and all I could think about were my children - would they grow up without their mum and how would they cope? It was one of the worst days of my life.” 

Abbey soon found herself undergoing treatment, including seven weeks of radiation and micro chemotherapy. 

Through regular cervical screening, early treatment and HPV vaccination, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. However, data from our Victorian Cancer Registry shows that more than 200 Victorians are diagnosed with this cancer every year. 

If you’re a woman or person with a cervix aged 25-74, a Cervical Screening Test is the best protection against cervical cancer but around one in three eligible Victorians are not participating regularly in cervical screening, putting them at greater risk of developing cancer.  

To help increase participation in cervical screening, we launched a new campaign, In Your Hands, to encourage all eligible Victorians to get screened. 

Although she feels lucky that her cancer was detected at an early stage and could be treated, Abbey reflected that the diagnosis could have been avoided if she had kept up to date with her cervical screening. 

Now, Abbey is using her experience to urge others to prioritise cervical screening and try the self-collection option, especially if they have been avoiding their test. 

“Pap smear fear is real. I know it impacted me and I’ve spoken to many of my friends who have experienced it too and put off their test. So self-collection is a game-changer. 

“Being able to take control and do it yourself, in private is just such an important option. If I had known about self-collection, I would have done the test much earlier, she said.  

Abbey’s message to others who have put off the test is not to delay and to book in as soon as possible. 

“The alternative of going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment is just unfathomable. It doesn’t just affect you; it affects everyone around you. 

“Unlike so many other cancers, cervical cancer can be detected early and even prevented through regular cervical screening. If you’re overdue, take this as a sign to book in your test tomorrow. It really could save your life,” Abbey said. 

The In Your Hands campaign is part of our ambitious five-year Eliminating Cervical Cancer Strategy to support the collective efforts to eliminate cervical cancer in Victoria as early as 2030. Our goal is to make Victoria one of the first places in the world to achieve this remarkable milestone. 

Thanks to generous funding from the Freemasons Foundation Victoria and other supporters, our Eliminating Cervical Cancer strategy is playing a critical role in improving early detection and saving lives. 

"Freemasons Foundation Victoria is proud to stand alongside the Cancer Council Victoria in their commendable effort to advance cervical cancer elimination in Victoria. FFV’s support in the area of health strives to accelerate progress and ensure equitable access to services including life-saving screening and early detection of cancer. Supporting this campaign is paving the way for a future free from the burden of cervical cancer," said Garry James, Chairman of Freemasons Foundation Victoria.

Whether you have had regular cervical screening tests, talked to someone about screening or donated, you are helping to ensure that cervical cancer becomes a thing of the past.  

Preventing cervical cancer is in your hands. 

If you are a woman or person with a cervix aged 25-74, you can protect yourself against cervical cancer by doing a Cervical Screening test every five years.  Now, you have the option to self-collect your Cervical Screening Test using a swab – it's quick, easy, private and accurate. 

If you are due or overdue for your Cervical Screening Test, book in today. 

Return to Breakthrough May 2024 edition