Summary

Data updates

This report presents the latest available activity and participation data for the 3 cancer screening programs:

  • Activity data are presented to June 2022 by state and territory for all 3 screening programs: breast, cervical and bowel cancer screening. Activity data are updated quarterly and were last updated on this page in October 2022.
  • Participation data are updated in this release to 2019–2020 using final data for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

What are Australia’s cancer screening programs?

Cancer is one of the leading causes of illness and death in Australia. Some cancers can be detected through screening, which allows for early detection, intervention, and treatment.

Australia has 3 national cancer screening programs:

  • National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP)
  • BreastScreen Australia
  • National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP).

These programs offer a screening test to people in defined target groups to test for signs of cancer or pre-cancerous conditions.

How do we measure the use of cancer screening programs?

Two key measures of the use of cancer screening programs in this report are activity and participation.

Activity

Activity data are counts of events, such as the number of screening tests conducted.

Activity data show the volume of work undertaken by the cancer screening programs.

Activity data can be made available quickly, which means recent trends can be identified. Knowing how many tests are conducted helps services and policy makers understand demand and plan for the future.

Activity data count events rather than people. A person may be counted more than once if they complete more than one screening test during the time period.

Participation

Participation is the proportion of eligible or invited people who completed a screening test.

Participation data help us to know the extent to which target groups are being reached, and can inform strategies to improve screening rates among these groups of people.

Participation is usually measured over a longer period of time than activity data (2 years or 5 years, in line with the recommended screening interval for each program), so the results take more time to become available.

Each person is counted only once for each program.

In this report, all rates reported are crude or age-specific rates (including national rates for a single period), unless otherwise stated (for more details on the use of different types of rates, including the use of age-standardised rates, please refer to the rates section of the Technical notes).

High rates of participation produce the greatest population benefits in terms of reducing illness and death from these cancers (see the AIHW report Analysis of cancer outcomes and screening behaviour for national cancer screening programs in Australia).

Activity: latest results

Bowel cancer screening (NBCSP):

  • 876,000 invitations to participate were sent from the NBCSP in the June quarter 2022.
  • 268,000 bowel screening kits were returned in the June quarter 2022.

BreastScreen Australia:

  • 235,000 screening mammograms were performed in the June quarter 2022 for women aged 50–74.
  • The June quarter 2020 had the lowest number of screening mammograms performed compared to quarters in all other years.

Cervical screening (NCSP):

  • 101,000 cervical screening tests were performed in the June quarter 2022.

Participation: latest results

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP):

Based on 2019–2020 final data:

  • Almost 2.5 million of the 5.7 million people aged 50–74 who were invited to screen participated.
  • This was a participation rate of 43.8%.
  • Participation was higher among women (45.7%) than men (41.9%).

BreastScreen Australia:

Based on 2020–2021 preliminary data:

  • Almost 1.7 million women aged 50–74 participated.
  • This was a participation rate of 48%.

National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP):

Based on 2018–2021 interim data:

  • 4.2 million people aged 25–74 had a cervical screening test.
  • This was a participation rate of 62%. This is an estimate of program participation, as only 4 years of data are available.
  • Participation in the renewed 5-year program cannot be accurately reported until there are 5 years of data available (2018–2022).

What is included in this report?

This report includes the latest available activity and participation data for the 3 cancer screening programs, as outlined below. Data in this report are updated quarterly.

Activity data:

  • Activity data up to and including the June quarter 2022 for all 3 screening programs: breast, cervical, and bowel cancer screening activity.

Participation data:

  • Participation data for bowel cancer screening were updated in this release with final data for 2019-2020.
  • Breast cancer screening preliminary participation data by age group and state and territory for 2020–2021 (see ‘Data updates’ box for details). Participation by Primary Health Network and Statistical Area Level 3 were updated for 2019–2020 in the May 2022 release and were revised for Queensland in the July 2022 release.
  • Cervical screening interim participation data by state and territory and age group for 2018–2021 were updated in the July 2022 release. Participation by Primary Health Network and Statistical Area level 3 were updated for 2018–2020 in the May 2022 release (see ‘Data updates’ box for details).
     

Data updates

Data in this report are sourced from live databases, which are updated over time, with later data supply likely to have a greater level of completeness. Data in this report may differ from other AIHW cancer screening reports, which are sourced at a different time.

Activity data for cervical, bowel cancer, and breast cancer screening are updated each quarter.

Preliminary participation data for cervical, breast, and bowel cancer screening are published ahead of the respective AIHW annual monitoring report for each program to give key stakeholders and policy-makers early access to these important data. As more recent data are used to update participation when the respective AIHW annual monitoring reports are released, preliminary participation data are subject to change.

In this report, screening activity data are presented by month and quarter for the target ages in each of the 3 screening programs. Activity data for BreastScreen Australia are reported for additional age groups. Each quarter covers 3 months of the year and is identified with reference to the last month in the quarter (for example, the December quarter comprises October, November, and December).

Participation by geography is also presented. Participation by Primary Health Network and Statistical Area Level 3 were updated for the bowel screening program  in the July 2022 release to provide preliminary participation rates for 2019–2020 and are now updated with the final participation rates in this release. This update also includes participation rates for SA3s that were previously unable to be reported at the national level (for more details on the methods of assigning geography, please refer to the Assigning geography and Correspondences sections of the Technical notes). For the cervical and breast screening programs, participation by geography was updated in May 2022, with an update made in July 2022 for Queensland participation rates by SA3 for 2019–2020 to expand their geographical coverage. Exploring the results across different geographical areas can help to identify where resources are needed to improve equity, accessibility, and participation in cancer screening programs.

Performance measures of cancer screening programs

Participation is one of many indicators used to evaluate the performance of Australia’s national cancer screening programs against their aims.

The full set of performance indicators are reported in each program’s annual monitoring reports, available from the AIHW’s cancer screening reports page.

The activity data presented in this report complement performance indicator reporting.