Dr Aime Powell BExSc MExSc PhD is the latest recipient of an AGCF Research Fellowship. She is currently employed by the Institute of Health Research, University of Notre Dame and is funded by St John of God Hospital Subiaco as an Early Career Postdoctoral Research Fellow. In 2018, she received the Cindy Sullivan Research Fellowship for her project titled “Aboriginal women at increased risk of cervical cancer incidence and mortality: Quantifying the risk in an era of national prevention programs.”
Cervical cancer has long been one of the most preventable cancers because it can be diagnosed in the precancerous phase with regular cervical screening. The disease is caused by the sexually transmitted human Papilloma virus (HPV). With the introduction of the HPV vaccine almost 15 years ago, and vaccination of all 12-13-year-old girls and boys, it is now possible to prevent even the precancerous disease in the vast majority of cases.
In 2016, it was reported that Aboriginal women were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and four times more likely to die from this disease when compared to non-Aboriginal women. This is a huge contrast to the reduction of cervical cancer incidence in non-Aboriginal Australian women. Dr Aime Powell’s research links data of approximately 800,000 women and is focused on identifying why this disparity is occurring in order to enhance the prevention of cervical cancer. She believes that while it is imperative to understand what the data are telling us “consulting with and learning from Aboriginal women has been a privilege.”
Women’s unique insights have been incredibly rewarding for Dr Powell. She has met with cervical cancer survivors to hear about their diagnosis, treatment and the impact cancer has had on their family and friends. Their message: it is critical to ask your GP about cervical screening and request the test.
Dr Powell knows that “in Australia, we live in a diverse community and it is important to find strategies that reach all women and ensure that equal health outcomes occur, regardless of status.” Her research has placed particular emphasis on the role of women talking to women. “Hearing our cervical cancer survivor experiences makes the risk of cervical cancer real and can encourage us to talk to a GP about the importance of preventing this disease.”
“Ultimately, Research inspires us to do better!”
Without the AGCF funding Dr Powell believes her research would not be possible. The grant enabled her to focus on this project rather than submitting multiple applications to different funding bodies – where gynaecological cancer is often overlooked. She was also able to interview and film two beautiful cervical cancer survivors and hear their cancer experiences. They share a powerful message for all women to look after their health, which we may take for granted when life gets busy. These videos will be released in November 2019 for National Cervical Cancer Awareness week to call women to action and participate in cervical screening – so we can fight cervical cancer together.