Sue Collins talks education and elimination in ‘Conquering Cancer’

Sue Collins (centre) in Malaysia.

If Australia needs inspiration for the ongoing battle against COVID-19, it can be found in the country’s efforts to eliminate cervical cancer, according to Sue Collins.

In Conquering Cancer, the documentary filmmaker embarks on an international journey of discovery, exploring how Australia’s successful cervical cancer prevention programs, including HPV vaccination and cervical screenings, can be adopted internationally.

There are contributions from cancer survivors across Australia, Malaysia, Zambia, USA, Colombia, and Switzerland, as well as global health experts, such as Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from the World Health Organisation, and Professor Ian Frazer from the University of Queensland.

The film, which is directed by Mike Hill, is a Moonshine Agency production, and is presented by FanForce Films.

Collins, whose previous works include documentaries Take Heart and Little Stars, told IF the project was designed to share the journey to elimination and also draw attention to women’s health issues.

“It’s a really exciting success story; if we can conquer cervical cancer, imagine what we can do with other forms of cancer,” she said.

“The message is really to get women to get screened and if they have children that are able to be vaccinated, then to do that as well.”

‘Conquering Cancer’

Since the introduction of Australia’s National Cervical Screening Program in 1991, the incidence of cervical cancer and related mortality rates in the country have halved.

Research from Cancer Council NSW shows Australia is on track to become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, with 2035 set as the possible target date if the current vaccination and screening coverage rates are maintained.

While the national focus may be firmly on another public health issue, Collins said her documentary had the potential to be uplifting for audiences.

“I think people want a positive story,” she said.

“It’s just been so doom and gloom watching the news every day, so with this, you can actually inspire people and say, ‘This is a really good story that could change cancer forever’.

“That it is being led by Australians is just incredible.”

Conquering Cancer will have its world premiere at Cinema Nova in Melbourne on Thursday, August 26, which will be followed by a Q&A with Collins and special guests VCS Foundation executive director Marion Saville, ROSE Foundation (Malaysia) medical technical advisor Yin Ling Woo, and The Kirby Institute’s Andrew Vallely.

There will be further screenings in Victoria, WA, Tasmania, and the ACT at the end of August.

Collins said people would also have the opportunity to host their own screenings at cinemas via FanForce.

“When we have done our releases before, they seem to have a pretty long tail, so we’re assuming this film will still be able to be put in cinemas for the next 18 months or so, but it will also go to video on demand and potentially broadcast television over the coming months,” she said.

Collins will travel to the Northern Territory this week to begin work on her next project, Deadly Heart, which will be a sequel to the 2016 documentary Take Heart.

Find more information about Conquering Cancer screenings here.