Cancer detection

Early detection for many cancers improves survival and other outcomes.

Page last updated: 18 January 2016

Population screening can help protect the health of Australians through early detection, even if symptoms of the disease are not present. Some screening programs can also help to prevent cancer developing if changes can be found before they become a cancer.

Population screening programs include:

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
National Cervical Screening Program
BreastScreen Australia
Standing Committee on Screening

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

To reduce the incidence and death from bowel cancer, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program offers people turning 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 and 74 years of age, free screening with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT). The test is mailed to eligible people and is able to be completed in the privacy of their own home.

Other age groups are progressively being added to the program so that by 2020 all Australians aged between 50 to 74 years will be invited to screen every two years.

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National Cervical Screening Program

To reduce illness and deaths from cervical cancer, the National Cervical Screening Program offers routine Pap smears every two years for women aged 18-69 years (or one or two years after first having sexual intercourse, whichever is later) to provide better protection against cervical cancer.

BreastScreen Australia

To reduce mortality and morbidity from breast cancer, Breastscreen Australia actively recruits and screens women aged 50-74 years for early detection of the disease. The program provides free mammography screening to well women in the target group of 50-74 years. Women aged 40-49 and over 75 years are also eligible to attend.

Standing Committee on Screening

The Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council established the Standing Committee on Screening to provide advice on existing population screening programs and monitor new evidence for population screening. The Population Based Screening Framework informs decision makers on the key issues to be considered when assessing potential population screening programs in Australia.

To date, the Standing Committee on Screening has prepared a position statement on the suitability of the prostate cancer screening using the prostate-specific antigen test; and lung cancer screening using low-dose computed tomography.