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.
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 cervical screening.
As of 1 December 2017, cervical screening has changed in Australia. The Pap test has been replaced by the new Cervical Screening Test which looks for the presence of HPV, the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer. The new test is more effective than, and just as safe as, screening with a Pap test every two years and is expected to reduce cervical cancer rates and deaths by at least 20%.
- Cancer Council ACT recommends all women aged 25 to 74 who have ever been sexually active, have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years, even if they are no longer having sex. People who are vaccinated for HPV still need to participate in regular cervical screening.
- Anyone with symptoms such as unusual vaginal bleeding, discharge or pain should see their doctor straight away, regardless of when they were last screened.
For more information visit the National Cervical Screening Program website.