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Watching for early signs of cancer

Although your body changes constantly as you age, sometimes you get the feeling that something is not quite right. You know your body better than anyone so you should consult your doctor straight away if something is different.

This includes changes to your breasts, unexplained lumps, persistent coughs, changes in toilet habits, unexplained weight loss or unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding. You should also keep a close eye on your skin and if you notice a new spot or lesion or an existing spot or lesion that changes in shape, colour or size, visit your general practitioner immediately.

Australia currently has three free cancer screening programs, that target specific age groups and test people for early signs of cancer or precancerous conditions.

Breast Screening
Women aged 50 – 74 should consider having a free mammogram every two years. Women aged 40-49 and 75 years and older can also access free screening. 

Bowel Screening
When completed in 2020, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will offer free screening to all Australians aged 50 and over every two years. The program currently invites men and women turning 50, 55, 60, 64, 65, 70, 72 and 74 to screen. Participants are sent an easy to use screening kit that can be completed at home and mailed back at no cost. If you receive a kit, please use it.

Cervical Screening
All women are encouraged to have a Pap test every two years from ages 18 to 70. Even if you have had the HPV vaccine, you should participate in this life-saving program.

Screening tests are designed to identify early warning signs and while most positive test results turn out to be something other than cancer, it’s important to be sure. No matter how old you are, it’s important to participate in any applicable screening programs and discuss any concerns and changes you are experiencing with your doctor.

For more information call Cancer Council on 13 11 20.

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