In March, Cancer Council Australia released a report highlighting the need for the Government to set a timeline and framework to ensure cervical cancer screening and human papillomavirus immunisation work together to further reduce cervical cancer burden in Australia.
Releasing the recommendations of a “roundtable” meeting of Australian experts, the Cancer Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor Ian Olver, said the vaccine’s introduction would raise questions about cervical screening intervals and cost-effectiveness, and could lead to potential confusion about how the two programs work together.
“Australia’s cervical cancer screening program is the main reason incidence in women aged 20 to 69 halved between 1991 and 2005, while HPV immunisation has the potential to prevent up to 70 per cent of cervical cancers,” Professor Olver said.
“As girls who have been vaccinated reach the screening age range of 18 to 20, we are likely to see fewer abnormalities and will need to look at screening intervals and pathology workforce.
“An evidence-based approach to policy and public information will help to ensure these two different approaches to cervical cancer prevention combine to further reduce incidence and mortality.”
The Cancer Council also released the HPV immunisation chapter of its National Cancer Prevention Policy, which identifies opportunities for the vaccine to reduce cultural inequities in cervical cancer mortality.
In May, Cancer Council Australia welcomed the Rudd Government’s $87 million budget commitment to screen all Australians aged 50, 55 and 65 for bowel cancer as a step towards fully implementing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Ian Olver, said the Rudd Government should be commended for allocating significant funds towards bowel cancer screening, which has been shown to prevent more than a third of bowel cancer deaths among the screened population.
“Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s comments that this 2008-09 budget allocation is to build capacity until the bowel cancer screening program is fully implemented through the Commonwealth/state health care agreements are very encouraging,” he said.
“The Cancer Council has long said that the program, one of only three forms of population-based cancer screening shown to save significant numbers of lives, should be fully operational by 2012.
“Maintaining the current arrangements to screen 55 and 65 year-olds, while extending screening to 50 year-olds as Labor promised in last year’s election, will reduce bowel cancer mortality and morbidity in Australia.
“The challenge now is to move towards full implementation by 2012 to maximise the screening program’s potential to save lives.”
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, was invited to attend the Australia 2020 summit in Canberra 19-20 April.
Describing the overall environment as “one of enthusiasm and optimism for the future,” Professor Olver participated in the health stream, which focused on future challenges and opportunities in health. Prevention was identified as a strong priority, along with recognition of the importance of providing research leadership to the world.
“It was exciting to be part of such a focused creative environment,” said Professor Olver.
“There was firm support for increasing taxes on products that lead to poor health outcomes, such as tobacco, alcohol and junk food, and to put that money back into public health. The group also looked at banning junk food advertising that targets children, and introducing a food labelling system that enables healthier consumer choices and measures to better promote physical activity in our daily lives – all important for cancer control.”
A key goal was establishment of a single health system in Australia offering optimum treatment and best outcomes in all stages of people’s lives.
The health stream also set goals to address health inequalities and redesign the health workforce to better meet the associated demands. The introduction of a health literacy program in schools would include first aid training. The creation of ‘Healthbook’ (like Facebook) could allow Australians to take greater ownership of their health information.
“The key aims of creating a health system structured around the person rather than the provider, focusing health policy on prevention, and becoming a world leader in research and translation, are all achievable,” Professor Olver said. “Cancer Council Australia looks forward to being involved in the realisation of these goals.”
A valuable new teaching resource from the Cancer Council educates secondary students about the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of skin care. The package includes a teachers’ guide and a DVD that examines the main issues relating to young people and skin cancer.
The Real stories about skin cancer and skin damage package will help students understand the risks of tanning and of getting burnt by the sun and solariums. It will encourage young people to examine their own attitudes about tanning and skin cancer and to understand the need for SunSmart behaviour now in order to prevent cancer later in life.
The DVD contains news items of varying lengths from TV programs such as 60 Minutes, the 7.30 Report and short news bulletin items. Also included is the story of young Melbourne woman, Clare Oliver, who was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 22 and who died four years later in 2007.
Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Ian Olver welcomed the resource. “This is an effective and powerful way to educate secondary school students about the dangers of tanning and to reinforce the importance of SunSmart behaviour,” he said. “We hope all schools take up the package.”
Uniting those touched by cancer, Friday 22nd August is Daffodil Day, the annual Cancer Council fundraising event giving hope to those with the disease and their loved ones.
The largest event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, Daffodil Day aims this year to raise over $9 million dollars to be put towards Cancer Council Australia’s essential research, education and support programs.
You can support Daffodil Day either by volunteering to sell merchandise through your practice/workplace, or by purchasing a Daffodil Day gift such as a wristband, $4, enamel pin, $5, soft mini-ball, $7, or branded pen, $5.
The Cancer Council’s CEO, Professor Ian Olver, says: “Daffodil Day is helping change attitudes towards cancer. People are now more open to talk about their health and seek advice, which can help in the prevention and early detection of cancer. But there is still much work to be done.”
Visit www.daffodilday.com.au for more information.
Last issue, we introduced the new Cancer Council campaign, Call to Arms – an event designed to raise funds and awareness for the one in two men who will diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.
The Cancer Council is calling on all Australian sportsmen to fight back against their fiercest opponent by joining forces in Call to Arms.
By registering their club and asking players to don a yellow armband, sportsmen can help prevent, detect and treat cancers in men. The event has been inspired by Adam Ramanauskas, an AFL player from the Essendon Football Club who has been diagnosed with cancer three times.
For a full list of teams and matches, visit www.calltoarms.com.au.
Providing support for the many women affected by breast cancer is Pink Ribbon Day, which will be held on Monday, 27 October.
By helping to sell our variety of pink ribbons, or by buying one to wear, you will be helping the Cancer Council to fund breast cancer research, offer support services to help patients and their families through their diagnosis and treatment and educate more women to be ‘breast aware’.
Visit www.pinkribbonday.com.au for more information on how to become involved.