The cancer screenings available to you right now


While we’re passionate advocates for helping you live a cancer-smart lifestyle, unfortunately, sometimes despite all the best prevention, cancer will still strike. However, your chances of survival and effective treatment are much, much higher if your cancer is detected early. It’s particularly important to be screened for cancers where you meet the risk factors e.g. family history. 

What cancer screening programs are out there in Australia and how can you access them?

Bowel cancer

Around one in 23 Australians will get bowel cancer in their lifetime, and sadly, around 100 will pass away from bowel cancer each week. Bowel cancer symptoms typically appear late, but if detected early, 90% of bowel cancers can be treated.

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 the colon, rectum, ovaries, endometrium or breast
  • Have colon polyps, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or type 2 diabetes
  • Have a poor diet

How do I get screened?
The screening process for bowel cancer is no longer scary or messy! In fact, a free and simple at-home test is available. This year, the National Bowel Screening Program is still being phased in with people of certain ages between 50-74 being invited to participate. By 2020, all eligible people aged 50-74 will be able to take part in two-yearly screenings. If you agree to take part, the Program will send you the at-home test kit. What the test − called the immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) − looks for is invisible traces of blood in your stool.

If you test positive, your GP will refer you for further tests, e.g. a colonoscopy. Even if you get a positive result, it’s important to do your tests every two years or talk to your doctor immediately if you develop bowel cancer symptoms. 

If you aren’t eligible for the free national screening program but have concerns or symptoms, speak with your GP about what testing you need.

Learn more

Breast cancer

The chance of a woman in Australia developing breast cancer is one in eight. It’s the most common cancer affecting women in Australia (besides non-melanoma skin cancer) and the second most common cancer to cause death in women, behind lung cancer. However, if found early, common forms of breast cancer generally have a good prognosis. When breast cancer is diagnosed through screening, it also reduces your chances of needing a mastectomy, which is breast removal surgery.

You have more risk of developing breast cancer if you:

  • Are 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 do I get screened?
Breast cancer screening takes place through a process called a mammogram, which is a low-dose breast x-ray. Even if you’re great at doing your regular breast checks, a mammogram can find cancers that are too small to feel.

All women aged 40 to 74 years have free access to the BreastScreen Australia program. Once you turn 50, you’re encouraged to have a free mammogram every two years. Simply call 13 20 50 to organise a free mammogram.

Mammograms are not recommended for women under 40, so if this is you and you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or are worried about symptoms, talk to your GP to discuss the most appropriate care.

If your mammogram returns an abnormality, you’ll be referred for further tests to identify if there’s cause for concern.

Learn more

Prostate cancer

One in seven Australian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. It’s the second most common men’s cancer in our country. Tragically, around 3,500 Australian men die of prostate cancer each year.

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

  • Are 50+ years old
  • Have a family history of prostate, breast or ovarian cancer
  • Have a poor diet

How do I get screened?
Many men are hesitant to be screened for prostate cancer, but there’s no need to be, as a simple blood test can be the first step. This test will find your prostate specific antigen levels. A digital rectal exam is now longer recommended for men who don’t show symptoms.

If you would like to be screened via blood test, or are showing symptoms of prostate cancer, speak to your GP about next steps.

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Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. One in 162 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Since a national screening program for cervical cancer began in 1991, the death rate for this cancer has halved.

You're more at risk of developing cervical cancer if you

  • Have had persistent infections of the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Are a smoker

How do I get screened?
You might be familiar with the two-yearly pap smear program, but this has since changed. From December 2017, the Australian Government introduced an updated screening program. The test is now better, and this means you will only need to be screened every five years, starting from age 25. A GP will be able to perform this simple screening test, which will feel the same to you as a pap smear. See your GP if you have any symptoms or to find out your next recommended screening date.

Learn more

What will it cost me to be screened?

Ask your health care provider if they can a bulk bill you for any services, as a Medicare cardholder. Also, CBHS members with Extras or package cover (except FlexiSaver) are eligible for wellness 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 ($100 for KickStart) 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.

Note - A benefit is not payable in respect of a service that was rendered to a member if the services can be claimable from any other source.

More information

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.

Health and wellbeing

programs & support

You Belong to More with CBHS Hospital cover:

  • Greater choice over your health options including who treats you
  • Get care at home with Hospital Substitute Treatment program
  • Free health and wellbeing programs to support your health challenges

Live your healthiest, happiest life with CBHS Extras:

  • Benefits for proactive health checks e.g. bone density tests, eye screenings
  • Keep up your care with telehealth and digital options
  • Save on dental and optical with CBHS Choice Network providers