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Early detection and screening

Find out about national screening programs

Screening programs

National screening programs are available in Australia to detect breast cancer, bowel cancer and cervical cancer.

These programs are available free of charge to people for whom there is evidence that the screening test can find a cancer at a stage when treatment is more effective.

The aim of screening programs is to pick up very early cancers in healthy individuals, who do not have symptoms.

Screening in Australia:

Early detection

Some cancers can be detected at an early stage when treatment is likely to be more effective. Tests have been developed that can detect these cancers well before any symptoms are present. 

Tests are currently available through national population-based screening programs for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer. These tests are provided free of charge for people who are eligible.

It is also a good idea to get to know your own body. If you notice any changes, such as a lump in your breast or a spot growing on your skin, see your doctor.

Cancer Screening

Click here for more information.

General advice 

Treatment can be more effective when cancer is found early. Keep an eye out for any unusual changes to your body, such as:

  • lumpiness or a thickened area in your breasts, any changes in the shape or colour of your breasts, unusual nipple discharge, a nipple that turns inwards (if it hasn't always been that way) or any unusual pain
  • a lump in the neck, armpit or anywhere else in the body
  • sores or ulcers that don't heal
  • coughs or hoarseness that won't go away or coughing up blood
  • changes in toilet habits that last more than two weeks, blood in a bowel motion
  • new moles or skin spots, or ones that have changed shape, size or colour, or that bleed
  • unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • unexplained weight loss.

If you notice any changes, see your doctor immediately. For more information,  call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Remember there are free screening programs available for breast cancercervical cancer and bowel cancer.

Information for health policy workers

Cancer Council Australia has a range of policy documents that address the early detection of cancer.

National Cancer Prevention Policy

Cancer Council Australia's National Cancer Prevention Policy provides evidence-based information for health professionals and policy makers on early detection and screening for cancer. It offers clear recommendations on how Australia can reduce the burden of cancer disease and death.

The National Cancer Prevention Policy advocates for a concerted and comprehensive national approach to the prevention of cancer. The policy makes specific recommendations for national action by governments and non-government organisations, including programs and strategies to reduce the incidence and mortality of cancer in Australia. It does not provide information about cancer prevention for individuals.

Cancer Council position statements

Cancer Council Australia has developed a range of evidence-based position statements to communicate our position on key cancer issues.

Position statements are developed by Cancer Council's expert committees and are based on the evidence available. All statements are reviewed regularly, in accordance with Cancer Council Australia's position statements policy.

The information contained in this section should not be used for individual medical advice. Please see your doctor if you have concerns or specific questions relating to your health.

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