Screening services

Cancer screening can help detect cancer early, before it develops or symptoms appear. 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 per cent of cases can be effectively treated.

Bowel screening involves testing for bowel cancer in people who do not have any obvious symptoms of the disease. The aim is to find cancers early when they are easier to treat and cure. Screening can also find polyps, which may develop into cancer over time.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program provides a free screening kit to eligible Australians aged between 50-74 to complete in the privacy of their own home.

Find out more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Resources for talking about bowel cancer and bowel screening with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are available here.

If you are over the age of 50, Cancer Council Queensland recommends you are screened for bowel cancer with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years.

Remember, if you have any symptoms or a family history of bowel cancer, speak to your GP.

BreastScreen Australia

Breast cancer affects more Australian women than any other cancer. Early detection of breast cancer provides the best chance of treatment and survival.

If you are aged between 50-74, Cancer Council Queensland recommends you complete a free mammogram through BreastScreen Queensland every two years, in addition to being breast aware.

BreastScreen Australia invites women aged 50-74 to have free two-yearly mammogram. Their services are offered in more than 600 locations across Queensland, including purpose-built vehicles to reach women in rural and remote regions. Women aged 40-49 and 75 years and older can also access free screening by contacting BreastScreen Queensland directly on 13 20 50.

Find out more about BreastScreen Australia.

National Cervical Screening Program

The National Cervical Screening Program aims to prevent cervical cancer by detecting early changes in the cervix. Cervical cancer incidence has halved in Australia since the introduction of the program in 1991.

Cells are collected from the surface of the cervix and sent to a laboratory where they are tested for cellular abnormalities using the Pap test.

It is currently recommended that all women aged between 18 and 69 who have ever been sexually active, have Pap tests every 2 years.

Cervical screening can be provided through your general practice, community or women’s health centre, family planning clinic, sexual health clinic or Aboriginal Medical Service.

Find out more about the National Cervical Screening Program.

Changes to the National Cervical Screening Program

Cancer Council Queensland supports the new cervical screening program to be launched nationally later this year, replacing the two-yearly pap smear test.

The new program will change from conducting pap smear tests (which look for abnormal cells) to a test that looks for HPV (the human papillomavirus – a virus that causes almost all cervical cancers). This means that we are catching what could eventually turn into cervical cancer one step earlier. The procedure to collect cells from the cervix will stay the same with the changes happening in the laboratory.

The new HPV test is more accurate and effective, and for that reason, women will only need to be screened every five years, instead of every two.

The test will be available for women aged 25 – 74, based on evidence that screening is much less effective in women under the age of 25 years.

Read more about changes to the program on the Department of Health and Cancer Council Australia websites.

Cancer Council Queensland is urging eligible women to continue participating in the current two-yearly pap smear screening program until the new test becomes available.

More information

For more information about national cancer screening programs call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 .

The information available on this page should not be used as a substitute for advice from a properly qualified medical professional who can advise you about your own individual medical needs. It is not intended to constitute medical advice and is provided for general information purposes only. See our disclaimer.