Peter Mac News

Supporting our neighbours in the Pacific to improve cervical cancer care

13 September 2023

Screenshot 2023 09 13 at 12.09.29 pm

Women with cervical cancer in Fiji are receiving treatment in Australia, at Peter Mac, via an initiative which supports cancer care for people in the Pacific Islands.

Fijian people currently do not have access to radiotherapy services in their own country – and radiotherapy is a mainstay of cervical cancer treatment.

“Peter Mac recognises the significant challenges that many Fijian women face accessing standard-of-care treatments for cervical cancer,” says Associate Professor Pearly Khaw, a lead Radiation Oncologist in Gynae-Oncology at Peter Mac

A pilot program has launched that is bringing up to five women from Fiji to Melbourne each year, so they can receive treatment for their cervical cancer.

These cancers are likely curable without surgery, requiring radiotherapy plus chemotherapy.

The women receive flights and accommodation in Melbourne for up to three months, covering their treatment period and until they are well enough to travel home.

The first two Fijian women are now receiving treatment via this pilot and, while in Australia, they also receive support from the local Fijian community.

The pilot initiative is also supported by the Fijian Government, and the Fijian Cancer Society.

Worldwide there are more than 600,000 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year and about 340,000 deaths, mostly in low and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organisation supports elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem and Australia is poised to be the first country in the world to achieve this goal.

“We hope the pilot will demonstrate there is a model that could be readily replicated in other cities throughout Australia and New Zealand,” Associate Professor Khaw says. 

This is an interim step while a gynaecological cancer service is being established in Fiji with local screening, diagnosis and treatment capability.

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