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  • Wellbeing

The facts about early detection of cancer

17 May, 2017
Cancer detection

Cancer in Australia

  • ½ of Australian men and 1/3 of Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by 85.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia.
  • The most common cancers are
    1. Prostate cancer
    2. Breast cancer
    3. Bowel cancer
    4. Lung cancer
  • Biggest cancer killers are
    1. Lung cancer
    2. Bowel cancer
    3. Prostate cancer
    4. Breast cancer

Get checked, detect

There is no problem that can’t be made easier with early detection – cancer is no exception.

Unfortunately, taking measures to lower your risks of developing cancer, like healthy eating, exercising, wearing sunscreen and protective clothing, meditating and not/quitting smoking, aren’t guaranteed to prevent cancer entirely.

For true peace of mind, and to address problems as soon as possible, it’s important to be aware of cancer risk factors and understand your access to cancer screening procedures.

What can CBHS do to help?

Any CBHS member with extras or package cover are eligible for benefits on health checks and health management services:

  • For Health Checks, a Member may claim a Benefit of 90% of the cost of service, up to any relevant Limit per Service and the overall limit of $200 in a Calendar Year.
  • For Health Management (not including Gym Membership and Personal Training), a member may claim a Benefit of 90% of the cost of the service up to any relevant Limit per Service and the overall limit of $100 in a Calendar Year.


Bowel cancer screening


  • Bowel cancer is the second-most diagnosed cancer in Australia
  • Estimated to have affected 9815 males and 7705 females in 2016
  • Estimated mortality rate was 4094; 2144 males and 1950 females
  • Chance of surviving 5 years – 68%
  • Bowel cancer symptoms appear late

If detected early, 90% of bowel cancers can be treated

What are the risk factors for bowel cancer?

You have more risk of developing bowel cancer if you are

  • 50+ years old
  • Have a family history of bowel cancer
  • Have a personal history involving cancer of colon, rectum, ovaries, endometrium or breast
  • A history of colon polyps
  • Crohn’s disease
  • A history of ulcers in the large intestine (ulcerative colitis)
  • Type 2 diabetes

How does Bowel Cancer Screening work?

Bowel cancer screenings involve testing stool samples for traces of blood.

This is called the faecal occult blood test (FOBT). Blood in the stool can be indicative of polyps (abnormal tissue growth), cancer or other bowel problems.

If traces of blood are found, you should consult a doctor on further actions to take, such as a

  • Colonoscopy
  • CT scan
  • Barium enema
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • Ultrasound


Where can I get Bowel Cancer Screening?

Australia has a National Bowel Screening Program. If you’re part of the program, you will be sent a bowel screening test kit via mail to gather a sample to be sent back for testing.

Eligibility for the Screening Program is based on age:

2016 Eligibility

50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72, 74

2017 Eligibility

50, 54, 55, 58, 60, 64, 68, 70, 72, 74

2018 Eligibility

50, 54, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72, 74

2019+ Eligibilitybe50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72,74

You can also go to your local GP for testing.

Breast cancer screening


  • Australia has the 17th highest incidence of breast cancer in the world
  • Estimated to have newly affected 15,934 females and 150 males in 2016
  • Estimated mortality rate was 3073; 3046 females and 27 males
  • Chance of surviving at least five years - 90%
  • Symptoms of breast cancer include breast swelling, skin irritation, nipple discharge
  • Diagnosing breast cancer with a screening decreased the chances of a mastectomy

Who is most at risk for breast cancer?

You have more risk of developing breast cancer if

  • You’re 50+
  • Have a family history of breast cancer
  • Were older at the time of your first childbirth
  • Have had hyperplasia
  • Use birth control pills
  • Have experienced weight gain or are at an unhealthy weight range
  • Have high breast density


How does breast cancer screening work?

Breast cancer screening can be performed through a process called a mammogram.

A mammogram is an x-ray of your breasts. It’s performed on each breast individually, and usually involves putting a slightly uncomfortable amount of pressure on the breasts to ensure the best possible image can be obtained.

If an abnormality is found, further tests can be performed to identify if there’s cause for concern.

Mammograms are less likely to be effective for women under 40. If you’re worried or think you have any issues, you should discuss it with your GP.


Where can I get a breast cancer screening?

Australia has a breast screening program called BreastScreen Australia.

If you are over 50, you can call 13 20 50 to organise a free mammogram.

If you are under 50 and have concerns, first visit your local GP for further advice and guidance.

Prostate cancer screening


  • Australia has the 7th highest incidence of prostate cancer in the world
  • Estimated to have newly affected 18,138 males in 2016
  • Estimated mortality rate was 3398 men in 2016
  • Chance of surviving at least five years - 94%
  • Symptoms of prostate cancer include painful and difficult urination, loss of bladder control, and blood in urine

Who is most at risk of prostate cancer?

You're more at risk of developing prostate cancer if you are

  • 40+ years old
  • Have a family history of prostate cancer
  • Changes in certain genes
  • Have Lynch Syndrome ( a genetic condition that increases chances of developing cancer, and developing it before the age of 40)

How does prostate cancer screening work?

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

The Prostate-Specific Antigen is a protein cell uniquely produced by the prostate gland. When a man has prostate cancer, his PSA levels are normally higher than normal. To determine this, a blood sample is taken, and PSA levels are measured for abnormalities. However, elevated PSA levels aren’t necessarily indicative of cancer – it can be the result of a swollen prostate or other prostate condition.

How do I get access to a prostate cancer screening?

You can ask your local doctor to check your prostate and to see if they recommend you undertake a PSA test.

Lung cancer screening


  • Australia is not found within the top 20 countries of lung cancer incidence in the world
  • Estimated to have newly affected 7130 males and 5073 females in 2016
  • Estimated mortality rate was 8839; 5122 makes and 3716 females
  • Chance of surviving at least five years - 15%
  • Symptoms of lung cancer include a persistent or heavy cough that produces blood, weight loss, loss of appetite, vein swelling in neck, headaches, trouble swallowing or breathing, hoarse voice

Who is most at risk for lung cancer?

You are greater risk of developing lung cancer if you are

  • A smoker, particularly one that started in early life
  • Are exposed to second-hand smoke
  • Are exposed to air pollution
  • Are infected with HIV
  • Have been exposed to asbestos
  • Have a history of lung diseases
  • Are exposed to radon (naturally occurring radioactive gas)

How does lung cancer screening work?

Australia doesn’t currently have a lung cancer screening program.

However, if you are a smoker, or feel you are more at risk of developing lung cancer, there are detection tests that you can undergo.

Chest x-ray

This is normally the first step taken by doctors if they feel there is cause for concern.

An x-ray of your chest provides imaging of your lungs, and will allow a professional to determine if there are any abnormalities present.

Sputum cytology

This test involves investigating coughed-up mucus (mucus from the lungs) to determine whether or not abnormal cells are present.

Computed tomography (CT) scan

A CT scan is a highly detailed series of x-rays taken from all sides of the body. This gives a more comprehensive view of your lungs.

Where can I get a lung cancer screening?

If you feel as though you’re at risk of developing lung cancer, see your doctor. If they feel as though there is cause for concern, they will start the screening process with a physical examination, and continue as they see fit.

Further resources and information:

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