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Trial to revolutionise cervical cancer screening

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The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has ushered in a generation of women who are better protected against cervical cancers.

So, what’s the most effective way to screen for them in these women, aged 25 to 38, who have received a series of Gardasil injections, most likely at high school?

That’s what phase two of a world-first clinical trial, led by the VCS Foundation and Cancer Council NSW, aims to find out.

The first phase of the Compass Trial effected major changes to the National Cervical Screening Program in 2017, whereby the Cervical Screening Test replaced the Pap test and the frequency was reduced from every two years in women aged 18 or older, to every five years in women aged 25 or older.

The second phase will focus more narrowly on the most effective screening strategies, and 7,500 Australian women aged 25 to 38 are still needed to participate in the study.

Family Planning NSW is the only clinic in Newcastle helping to recruit participants, in addition to its Ashfield, Fairfield and Penrith clinics.

Newcastle GP Shannon Forsyth said in the randomised, controlled trial, women would be given one of two, equally-safe screening tests to help determine the best method.

“The results will then inform how we screen and prevent cervical cancer, both nationally and on a global scale,” Mrs Forsyth said.

Associate Professor Marion Saville, co-principal investigator and VCS Foundation executive director, said nearly all cervical cancers were caused by persistent infection with certain types of HPV.

“HPV testing is a better way to find lesions that otherwise may become cancers but we are also using the trial to identify the best way to refine the testing, which, in turn, will help avoid sending too many healthy women for further tests,” she said.

The Compass Trial is the largest clinical trial ever to be conducted in Australia, aiming to recruit 82,303 women by 30 November.

To participate, or to find out more, contact Family Planning NSW’s Newcastle clinic on 4929 4485 or visit compasstrial.org.au

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