Population-based screening refers to a test offered to everyone in a target group. Screening involves simple tests to look for particular changes or early signs of a disease.
Screening is different from diagnostic testing
Screening checks everyone in a particular group, so those with early disease can get further tests and treatment. It is different from diagnostic testing, which doctors order if you already have symptoms of a disease.
If you already have signs of a disease or are at a higher risk of getting a disease, see your own doctor. Do not wait until you are eligible to be involved in a population-based screening program.
Why screening is important
Screening is important because it:
- reduces the burden of the disease on the community and individuals (illness and death)
- detects the disease earlier, on average, than if there was no screening
- improves health outcomes for individuals and their families.
Screening tests are not 100% accurate and the body changes over time. This means it is important to be screened at regular intervals.
Our population-based screening programs aim to reduce the impact of several important diseases in the Australian community.
Meeting our goals
There are 5 population-based screening programs in Australia:
- National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
- National BreastScreen Australia Program
- National Cervical Screening Program
- Newborn Bloodspot Screening
- Newborn Hearing Screening.
Population-based screening programs run within an agreed framework of:
- quality management
Population-based screening framework
The Population-based screening framework sets out the principles of screening programs for cancer and chronic diseases. The framework provides guidance for decision makers when considering potential population-based screening programs in Australia.
The framework has assisted in the development of the following position statements about screening:
Who we work with
State and territory health departments run population-based screening programs, apart from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
Read more about cancer screening in Australia.
See cancer contacts for details of cancer screening organisations.