Health Voices Survey Results | September 2018

What we heard about cancer screening in September 2018

Cancer screening is an important way to identify early, the onset of many cancers. Across the Murray PHN catchment we know that only 63.9% of eligible people participated in cervical screening, 57.3% in breast screening and 41.9% in bowel screening during 2010-2014. These rates are even lower in some of our communities.

Our Health Voices were asked about cancer screening and in most instances were able to select more than one answer, or skip questions. See below for what we heard. This information will help to inform a collaborative cancer screening project we are undertaking with the Department of Health and Human Services.

If you have any questions about cancer screening or would like to know more about specific cancer screening, speak with your doctor or healthcare team.

Health Voices who responded were:

  • 87% female
  • 13% male


  • 8% Goulburn Valley
  • 10% North West
  • 24% North East
  • 33% Central Victoria

And aged:

The types of cancer that our Health Voices or their family members have been diagnosed with are 

  • 24% Breast cancer
  • 20% Other (Bladder, Head and Neck, Kidney, Leukaemia, Lung, Melanoma, Esophageal, Prostrate, Spinal Tumor, Throat, Thyroid; Groin)
  • 18% Bowel
  • 2% Cervical
  • 33% None

What people understand and think about cancer screening

Who people feel comfortable talking to about cancer screening 

People could choose more than one option below. The responses indicate to us that people would feel comfortable seeking support from multiple parties.

  1. 59% healthcare provider (e.g. Doctor)
  2. 48% spouse/partner
  3. 4% family
  4. 34% friends
  5. 20% work colleagues

Cancer screening participation figures

The following percentage of people had received requests to participate in cancer screening:

  • 67% Cervical cancer
  • 66% Bowel cancer
  • 59% Breast cancer

Percentage of people who have participated in every cancer screening request that they have received:

Of the people who said no, they told us why, which included:

People's shared understandings and experiences of cancer screening

Common barriers to cancer screening for patients, as identified by healthcare practitioners:

  • fear of results
  • access to services
  • lack of understanding and knowledge of how important screening is
  • tests are thought to be invasive

What healthcare providers do to encourage patients to participate in screening:

  • suggesting clients attend in work time
  • routine reminders sent out
  • reoccurring and open discussions with patients
  • posters in waiting rooms
  • education for all

Parts of the health system and procedures that could work better:

  • more breast screen buses in rural locations
  • less travel to have tests completed
  • finding time to do tests e.g. breast screening takes time
  • lack of access to bulk billing locally
  • lack of public transport to screening centres and services

Cancer screening information

Cancer screening can help protect your health through early detection, even if you aren't experiencing any symptoms of the disease. Simple screening tests look for specific changes and early signs of cancer before it has developed or symptoms emerge.

Bowel Cancer Screening

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program offers eligible people aged 50 to 74 years a free, simple screening test to complete in the privacy of their own home. To find out more call the Infoline on 1800 118 868 or visit the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program website.

Breast Cancer Screening

BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program. It invites women aged between 50 and 74 for a free mammogram every two years. For information or to book an appointment phone 13 20 50 or visit the BreastScreen Victoria website.

Cervical Cancer Screening

In December 2017, the Cervical Screening Test replaced the Pap Test in Australia.

The Cervical Screening Test is more effective than the Pap test at preventing cervical cancers, because it detects the human papillomavirus (known as HPV), whereas the Pap test looked for cell changes in the cervix. HPV is a common infection that can cause cervical cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer.

The Cervical Screening Test is more effective than the Pap Test at preventing cervical cancers, and is just as safe to be done every five years instead of every two.

For most women aged 25 to 74 their first Cervical Screening Test due two years after your last Pap test. After that, you will only need to have the test every five years if your result is normal.

If you are due for testing, contact your healthcare provider to book an appointment. For more information visit the National Cervical Screening Program website or call 13 15 56.

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