We can all work together to support eligible Victorians to participate in regular cancer screening, identify cancer signs or symptoms and book preventative health checks to find cancer early.
Promote Cancer Council Victoria’s Early Detection Saves Lives campaign
Cancer Council Victoria is working with a broad range of health professionals to deliver a Victorian Government Department of Health funded Early Detection campaign. The campaign was informed by Cancer Council Victoria’s Behavioural Insights Research and community consultation, which highlighted the need of Victorians to be reassured by doctors to book appointments for symptoms or cancer screening. It is critical that we remind Victorians that they can and should make an appointment to get a symptom checked or to discuss cancer screening.
We’re encouraging health professionals to take these three steps:
- Discuss cancer screening and cancer symptoms with patients during consultations.
- Reinforce the importance of seeing a doctor without delay if a patient has concerns.
- Promote the campaign through their networks.
Watch our Early Detection video
Use the campaign’s stakeholder toolkit to find suggested newsletter and social copy as well as graphics.
Patients can also use the Cancer Council Victoria Early Detection website to know what to do and learn more about cancer symptoms and screening.
Increase cancer screening participation
Research shows patients are more likely to participate in cancer screening if advised by their doctor or a health professional.
That’s why we’re reminding health professionals to advocate and encourage all eligible Victorians to participate in cancer screening for:
You can check if your patient is up to date with bowel and cervical screening through the National Cancer Screening Register.
Remind patients to make an appointment for a free breast screen through BreastScreen Victoria by calling 13 20 50. It is also important that women and trans and gender diverse people of all ages are encouraged to be familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts, and if they notice any changes to see their doctor without delay.
Encourage early detection behaviours
The coronavirus pandemic and other barriers mean some people put off seeking medical advice. People have changed how they prioritise their health, only seeking help for serious, acute issues and putting off anything they perceive to be non-essential.
The Victorian Cancer Registry (VCR) reported a 7% decline in cancer diagnoses in 2020, with diagnoses declining again in 2021 by 4.3%. This equates to around 3800 fewer cancer diagnoses in Victoria over 2020 and 2021 (VCR Report, 2022).
Insights show that some patients delay or hesitate to book appointments with their doctor to discuss cancer symptoms or for cancer screening as they believe:
- They will not be able to access a health system that is overburdened and that non-urgent issues are not a priority to healthcare providers.
- They find it difficult to get an appointment with their usual HP or if they need to wait for longer than they usually would.
- Increase in cost of GP services.
- Reduced availability of bulk billing.
Further qualitative research has also identified prevalent beliefs in the Victorian community that telehealth is preferred by GPs rather than face-to-face, and that consultations have been shortened and limited to the presenting issue, with little opportunity to discuss symptoms or raise concerns. This further deters individuals from booking appointments to discuss cancer screening or unexplained symptoms that may be a sign of cancer.
The greatest decline in cancer diagnosis occurred in bowel cancer (846 fewer diagnoses), melanoma (827), blood cancers (644), prostate cancer (625) and breast cancer (395) (VCR, 2022).
This is likely because the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the number of Victorians coming forward for cancer screening, testing and subsequent diagnoses.
Webinar: Department of Health Vic and RACGP Victoria - Cancer Early Detection campaign
Watch this webinar hosted by the Department of Health and RACGP for an update on the latest COVID-19 data, the impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses and the Cancer Council Early Detection campaign, including some GP case presentations.
- Adj Professor Kathryn Whitfield, A/Executive Director Community Based Health Services, Department of Health: Context and Policy settings
- Sabine Ostrowski, Manager Early Detection, Cancer Council Victoria: Addressing the impact of COVID on cancer diagnoses
- A/Prof Justin Tse, Clinical Dean, St Vincent’s Clinical School and General Practitioner: GP case presentations
- Dr David Lister, Deputy Chief Health Officer, Public Health Division, Department of Health: COVID-19 update"
View the webinar
Address inequities in cancer screening and early detection
In Victoria, some population groups are disproportionally affected by cancer or face additional barriers to screening.
These groups include:
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations
- People living regionally or rurally
- Culturally and linguistically diverse communities
- People experiencing greater socioeconomic disadvantage
- LGBTIQ+ populations
- People living with a disability.
Cancer Council Victoria has collaborated with key stakeholders and community organisations to create numerous resources to support health professionals reduce some of the inequities in cancer screening and early detection.
Find resources on the Cancer Screening Hub
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)’s Early Detection campaign is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to get cancer screening and health check-ups.
Find out more about VACCHO's campaign