Illawarra women are now taking part in a world-first clinical trial which is changing the way cervical cancer is screened for in an effort to save more lives.
Illawarra Women's Health Centre, at Warilla, began participating in the Compass Trial in June - with women aged 25 to 38 eligible to take part.
The Australia-wide trial aims to find the best way to refine testing for human papillomavirus, or HPV, especially in women who've been offered HPV vaccination. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by persistent infection with certain types of HPV.
The Illawarra centre's general manager Sally Stevenson said the results from the first phase of the trial supported major changes to the National Cervical Screening Program in 2017. Phase two would improve screening methods further.
"Previously the trial was only available in South Australia and Victoria and we're proud to be one of the first few clinics in NSW taking part," she said.
"Results from Phase 1 of Compass influenced the move from two-yearly pap smears to five-yearly HPV tests in Australia - that's a reduction in average lifetime screens from 25 to 10, a huge relief for many women.
"Phase 2 aims to refine testing even further, reduce the chance of further unnecessary tests, and provide solid research results to the rest of the world."
Ms Stevenson said local women just needed to book their screening appointment and advise staff if they'd like their results to be a part of the trial.
"Taking part doesn't require any additional effort on the woman's part," she said.
"Women have been incredibly supportive of this trial. Once they understand its potential impact, not only to improve screening processes here, but to also influence screening processes around the world, they are more than happy to take part. It's an incredible example of women helping other women."
More than 80,000 women across Australia will be recruited for the trial, led by the VCS Foundation and Cancer Council NSW.
"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 to avoid sending too many healthy women for further tests (false positive tests)," VSC Foundation executive director Marion Saville said.
"In the context of recent media on Australia's future elimination of cervical cancer, understanding how we can further improve screening in women, particularly those who have been vaccinated against HPV, is an important step towards eliminating this disease."
Further details at compasstrial.org.au