Nurse positioning patient for mammogram. Photo: Thinkstock
Breast cancer: Australian women between the ages of 50 and 70 are encouraged to have a mammogram – a type of breast X-ray – every two years.
Cervical cancer: Cervical screening with a Pap smear is not a test for cancer as such; rather, it is a method of preventing cancer by detecting and treating early abnormalities that could lead to cancer if left untreated. Australian women are advised to have a cervical screening test – which involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix – every two years from the time they become sexually active.
Bowel cancer: The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is being gradually introduced in Australia, and involves sending screening kits to all men and women aged from 60 to 69 every two years. Instructions on completing the test at home are included; you then send the sample to a laboratory. Anyone receiving an abnormal result (about 2 per cent) will be referred for further treatment and, usually, a colonoscopy.
Note that, although there is no organised screening program for prostate cancer in Australia (for various reasons, including the risk of a false result), men with specific concerns should always talk to their GP about the possibility of testing.
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