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Get checked – women

Learn more about how to reduce your cancer risk

A cancer prevention plan for women

Finding cancer early improves your chances of successful treatment and long-term survival.

Look for:

  • lumps, sores or ulcers that don't heal
  • unusual changes in your breasts – lumps, thickening, unusual discharge, nipples that suddenly turn inwards, changes in shape, colour or unusual pain
  • coughs that don't go away, show blood, or a hoarseness that persists
  • weight loss that can't be explained
  • any loss of blood, even a few spots between periods or after they stop (menopause)
  • moles that have changed shape, size or colour, or an inflamed skin sore that hasn't healed
  • blood in a bowel motion
  • persistent changes in toilet habits
  • persistent abdominal pain or bloating.

Symptoms often relate to more common, less serious health problems. However, if you notice any unusual changes, or symptoms persist, visit your doctor.

Check for early breast cancer

If you are over age 40 you can have a free BreastScreen Australia mammogram (breast x-ray) every two years. Mammograms look for early breast cancers in women without symptoms.

Regular mammograms can reduce your risk of breast cancer death by 25%. The benefit is highest for women aged 50 to 69.

Have a regular cervical screening test

Have a cervical screening test every five years from the age of 25. If you have previously had a Pap test (sometimes called a Pap smear), you should have your first HPV screening test two years after your last Pap test. If the test is negative for HPV, you can wait five years before your next test.

This replaces the Pap test previously used under the National Cervical Screening Program. While the procedure is similar the Pap test, the renewed National Cervical Screening Program now tests for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. The renewed National Cervical Screening Program has been effective from 1 December 2017.

In Australia, women can access a vaccine that can protect against the cause of most cervical cancers, HPV. However, the vaccines do not protect against all HPV types that cause cervical cancers, therefore all vaccinated women will still need regular cervical screening tests.

If you have cervical cancer, find out more on how to cope in our after a diagnosis of cervical cancer section.

There are currently no screening tests for ovarian, uterine, endometrial, vulvar or vaginal cancers. Fortunately, these cancers are very rare. Be aware of what is normal for you and if you notice any changes or symptoms that persist, visit your doctor.

To learn more about eliminating cervical cancer watch the video below.  

Eliminating Cervical Cancer - A Call to Action

Ask about screening for bowel cancer

Early detection of bowel cancer greatly improves chances of successful treatment. Your risk of bowel cancer increases with age. If you are over age 50, you should be tested for bowel cancer every two years.

The National Bowel Screening Program, using FOBT, is offered free to all Australians aged 50-74 every two years. Cancer Council urges all eligible Australians to participate. Screening kits usually arrive within six months of your birthday.

Some people have known risk factors which put them at increased risk. If you do, your doctor will talk to you about regular surveillance.

Ways to reduce your cancer risk

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.

Find out more

Other useful websites

Cancer Australia

BreastScreen Australia 13 20 50

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Information Line 1800 118 868

HPV vaccine

For information about treating specific cancers visit: