Cancer Screening and Prevention


On average, one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with a form of cancer during their lifetime. Cancer is now the largest cause of disease in Australia, surpassing cardiovascular disease (Cancer Institute NSW).

Accordingly, improving cancer screening rates and reducing cancer risk amongst our population is one of our key priorities.

Our Cancer Programs work with primary care and other key stakeholders to increase cancer screening rates and the prevalence of specific risk factors amongst target populations. In particular, our cancer screening and prevention program aims to improve participation in the three national screening programs: cervical, breast and bowel, as well as supporting skin cancer prevention and smoking cessation. This involves integrated cancer focussed strategies in program areas such as quality improvement, chronic disease management, and practice management and accreditation.

Cervical screening

Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable. Undergoing a Pap test every two years can reduce the risk of being diagnosed with cervical cancer by up to 96%.

All women aged 18 - 69 years who have ever been sexually active should have a pap smear every two years, even if they have received the HPV vaccine.

Support for practices

We can work with practices to ensure female patients are screened through:

  • Support to identify patients due and overdue for screening, including accessing lists from the pap test register
  • Support to implement recall and reminder systems
  • Provision of appropriate resources

Future changes to cervical screening

As of 1 May 2017, a HPV test every 5 years will replace the current recommendation of a pap smear every 2 years. Until 1 May 2017, women should continue to participate in the current two yearly Pap test program.

We will keep practices informed as to what these changes mean for them. Further information can be accessed at the National Cervical Screening Program website.

GP resources

Breast screening

1 in 8 women in NSW will develop breast cancer in their lifetime; 90% of them will have no family history of breast cancer.

Guidelines recommended that women aged 50-74 years have a screening mammogram every two years.

BreastScreen NSW

BreastScreen NSW provides free mammography at various fixed and mobile locations for women aged 40-74, particularly targeting those women aged 50-74. While no referral is required to use the BreastScreen service, GPs are encouraged to refer their patients, and likewise, patients are encouraged to share their results with their GP.

Each mammogram is read independently by two specially trained radiologists, with a third independent reading requested when necessary. All BreastScreen services are delivered by female staff.

For mobile van locations in South East Sydney, download the schedule here.

For both fixed and mobile van locations across Sydney, download the schedule here.

For both fixed and mobile van locations across NSW, visit the BreastScreen NSW website.

Bowel screening

Australia has one of the highest incidences of bowel cancer in the world. It is the 2nd biggest cancer killer in Australia & NSW after lung cancer.

Bowel cancer screening is recommended for men and women aged 50 years and over. In NSW, 93% of bowel cancer is found in people over 50 years.

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) was initiated by the Australian Government, in partnership with state and territory governments, to help detect bowel cancer early and reduce the number of deaths from the disease. Currently, the NBCSP mails a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit each year to Australians turning 50, 55, 60, 65 or 70 years of age who hold a Medicare or Department of Veterans' Affairs card (DVA).

The test is completed at home as per the instructions included in the kit, and sent to the laboratory free of charge. Results are provided to the individual directly, as well as to their nominated health professional. Those who receive a positive test result are advised to speak to their GP.

Tests are also available to purchase at local pharmacies or to order online at the Bowel Cancer Australia website.

GP resources

Smoking cessation

Tobacco smoking is the largest preventable cause of disease in Australia. Approximately one in five of all cancer deaths are due to tobacco smoking.

There are a number of options available to GPs to support their patients to quit smoking:

Patient resources and support

The ICanQuit website and QuitNow website allow patients to share their quit stories and experiences and provides resources and information around quitting also in other languages

Quitline 13 78 48 which provides free telephone support to help patients quit. Quitline is also available in other languages:

  • Arabic: 1300 7848 03
  • Vietnamese: 1300 7848 65
  • Chinese (Cantonese/Mandarin): 1300 7848 36

GP resources

Skin cancer prevention

We support SESLHD's multi-level skin cancer fellowship that provides GPs practising in the Sutherland Shire with quality education in skin cancer diagnosis and treatment.

For further information or to make an appointment for a skin cancer risk assessment visit the Integrated Specialist Healthcare website.