Prevention » Cancer Screening

Cancer Screening

Prevention » Cancer Screening

Cancer Screening

Cancer screening is the process of looking for cancer in people who don't have any symptoms.

Currently there are three national cancer screening programs:

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Australia. However, if detected early, approximately 90% of cases can be cured. Bowel cancer affects men and women.

  • Cancer Council ACT recommends men and women 50 years and over should have a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years to check for bowel cancer.
  • The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program currently provides a free FOBT screening test to eligible Australians to complete in the privacy of their own home.
  • If you have any symptoms or a familiy history of bowel cancer, speak to your GP.

The faecal occult blood test (FOBT) looks for microscopic traces of blood in your stools, which may be a sign of polyps, cancer or another condition. It is done at home and samples are then sent to a laboratory for testing. An FOBT does not diagnose cancer, but it helps your doctor decide whether to do other tests, such as a colonoscopy.

FOBT tests may be available through your GP or can be purchased at many pharmacies.

BreastScreen Australia

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Finding breast cancer early provides the best chance of treatment and survival. A breast screen or mammogram (breast x-ray) is the best method for detecting breast cancer early, before it can be noticed. 

  • Cancer Council ACT recommends women aged 50–74, check for breast cancer by having a screening mammogram (breast x-ray) every two years.
  • BreastScreen ACT, part of BreastScreen Australia, provides free mammograms every two years to women aged 50-74. Call 13 20 50 to make an appointment.
  • Women aged 40-49 and 75 and over are also eligible for free mammograms through BreastScreen ACT.
  • All women should get to know the normal look and feel of their breasts and see their doctor if they notice any changes.

National Cervical Screening Program

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. The best way to reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer is to have regular Pap tests. This simple test can pick up early changes to the cervix that can be treated before cancer develops.

  • Cancer Council ACT recommends all women aged between 18 and 70 have a Pap test every two years, even if they are no longer having sex.
  • Women who have had the HPV vaccine should also continue to have Pap tests as the vaccine doesn't prevent all cervical cancers.

For information on the Australian Government's breast, cervical and bowel screening programs please visit