Preventing and diagnosing cancer

Cancer can be caused by many things, but you can help prevent some cancers by minimising risk factors you can influence. Learn about some of the risk factors for cancer, as well as some of the ways that cancer can be diagnosed.

Preventing cancer

Several factors can contribute to cancer development:

  • genetics and family history – some genes that cause cancer can be passed from parent to child
  • lifestyle, such as poor diet, not enough exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol and being exposed to the sun
  • exposure to chemicals or industrial processes at work
  • infections, such as HPV (human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer), or hepatitis B or C viruses (which can cause liver cancer)

You can modify some of these risk factors to help reduce your risk of getting cancer:

Cancer Australia has tools and information to help you understand and reduce your cancer risk.

Cancer Screening can help detect cancer or its precursors early, which means it can be easier to treat. Australia has 3 cancer screening programs that can help diagnose the early stages of, or conditions that can lead to:

Diagnosing cancer

The symptoms of cancer are different depending on where it is in the body. If you notice any changes in your body that are unusual for you, see your doctor.

The way cancer is diagnosed depends on where it is in the body. You might have:

  • a physical examination
  • a blood test or urine test
  • imaging such as X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan
  • a biopsy, where a small sample of tissue is taken to check for cancer cells

Cancer Australia has more details about how each type of cancer is diagnosed.

Last updated: 
19 January 2021

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.