Check for unusual changes and have regular cancer screening tests
Ignoring cancer won't make it go away. It is important to be aware of any unusual changes to your body and get them checked out. Equally, screening is important because cancer can develop without symptoms.
For most cancers, finding it early means treatment has a better chance of success.
Look out for:
- coughs or hoarseness that won't go away
- unexplained weight loss
- a mole or skin spot that changes shape, size or colour
- changes in your toilet habits or blood in a bowel motion.
These signs don't necessarily mean you have cancer, but it's important to have them checked out.
Screening is an effective way of finding cancer early and is recommended where there is a proven benefit:
- Men and women over 50 are encouraged to do a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) every two years for bowel cancer. This test is self-administered, and can be done at home. Visit Cancer Council Victoria's bowel cancer screening pages for more information or to receive a free test kit.
- Women aged between 50 and 74 years are encouraged to have a mammogram for breast cancer every two years. Visit the Breast Health pages on the Cancer Council Victoria website for more information.
- Women aged between 18 and 70 years are encouraged to have a Pap test every two years to detect early changes that can lead to cervical cancer. Visit PapScreen Victoria for more information.
- There is currently no test to differentiate between prostate cancers that are slow-growing and unlikely to cause harm and those that are aggressive and require treatment. Because the side effects of prostate cancer testing and treatment are often very serious, we encourage men concerned about prostate cancer to speak to their doctor to make an informed decision about whether testing is right for them.
Immunisation: The HPV vaccine can help prevent cervical cancer in females (along with regular Pap tests) and HPV-related cancers in males. Speak to your doctor or visit the HPV Vaccine website for more information.
Past articles from our monthly cancer prevention newsletter: