Screening, tests and scans

You may be able to access preventive cancer screening programs. We can also help with the cost of a range of tests and scans.

Getting help with cancer screening

Cancer screening aims to find signs of the disease in the early stages, before it causes symptoms. Early detection increases the chance of successful treatment.

A screening test can’t diagnose cancer. You may need more tests for a diagnosis.

The federal, state and territory governments have screening programs for bowel, cervical and breast cancer. There are also screening tests you can have for other cancers. If you have any health concerns, see your GP and they will give you a referral. You won’t have to pay if the screening is bulk billed. Read more about bulk billing.

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Early detection is important.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program issues free home testing kits to eligible Australians aged 50 to 74.

You will get a test every 2 years. We keep your test results on the National Bowel Cancer Screening Register.

Read more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program on the Department of Health website.

National Cervical Screening Program

Routine screening is your best protection against cervical cancer. The National Cervical Screening Program has a simple test to check the health of your cervix. Women aged 25 to 74 can participate in the program. Find out where to get tested on the Department of Health website.

The Cervical Screening Test replaced the Pap test in December 2017. It is more effective than the Pap test because it detects human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common infection that can lead to cervical cancer. Your first test is at the age of 25, rather than 18 for the Pap test.

If you’ve had a Pap test, your first HPV test should be 2 years after your last Pap test. After that, you only need to have the test every 5 years if your result is normal. If you’re due for a test, book an appointment with your GP.

Read more about the National Cervical Screening Program on the Department of Health website.

BreastScreen Australia

Every 2 years, women aged 50 to 74 get an invitation for a free mammogram. This is part of Australia’s breast cancer screening program. If you’re 40 to 49 or over 75 you can have free mammograms but you won’t get an invitation.

To book your free mammogram, visit BreastScreen Australia on the Department of Health website. There are locations in every state and territory, as well as mobile BreastScreen services.

If you have breast cancer surgery, we may be able to help you pay for a breast prosthesis. Read more about the External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program.

Getting help with pathology tests

Pathology tests take samples of things such as blood, urine or tissue. Pathology labs test these samples, and the results help doctors diagnose and treat patients.

Your doctor will send you for a test if you need it. Common tests include a full blood count, liver function tests and urinalysis.

A pathology test can:

  • screen for disease
  • look for potential health risks
  • diagnose an illness
  • give a likely health outcome, such as during cancer treatment
  • prepare for treatment, such as before surgery
  • monitor your illness or medication.

You may need to follow special instructions, such as fasting, for some tests. Make sure to check with your doctor or the pathology collection centre.

Before your test you should ask how much you will have to pay. We pay for most pathology tests if the doctor or collection centre chooses to bulk bill. Read more about bulk billing.

Your doctor may give you a form for one brand of pathology provider. You are free to choose your own provider as long as they offer the test you need.

Read more about pathology tests at the Lab Tests Online website.

You can choose to add your pathology reports to your My Health Record. This means you and your doctor can access them. Read more on the My Health Record website.

Getting help with eye tests

You can book an eye test directly with an optometrist. You don’t need a referral from your GP.

If you notice any changes in your vision, you should get an eye test. If you see your GP about your vision, they may suggest you go to an optometrist.

Use the find a health service tool on the healthdirect website to find an optometrist near you.

We will pay for your eye test if the optometrist chooses to bulk bill. If you’re under 65, you can have 1 bulk billed eye test every 3 years. If you’re over 65 you can get a bulk billed test yearly. Not all optometrists bulk bill. Read more about bulk billing.

We don’t cover the cost of glasses or contact lenses. If you have private health insurance it may help pay for these, depending on your level of cover. Read more about private health insurance and Medicare.

Most states and territories have programs that help to pay for glasses and contact lenses. Read more about eye health schemes on the Department of Health website.

If you have an eye disease or disorder you may get a referral to an ophthalmologist. They are specialist eye doctors who can perform surgery. Before your appointment you should ask about the cost and if they bulk bill.

Getting help with hearing tests

If you notice any changes in your hearing, you should see your GP. They can refer you to an audiologist for a hearing test to measure any hearing loss.

You may be able to get hearing tests through the Hearing Services Program. The program may also cover some or all of the costs of hearing aids. If you’re not eligible for the program, you may get lower cost aids through a hearing aid bank.

Visit the Hearing Services Program on the Department of Health website to find out:

  • how to apply
  • how to find a hearing aid bank near you.

Read more about hearing tests on the healthdirect website.

Australian Hearing also offers free hearing tests to adults. To book a test, visit find a hearing centre on the Australian Hearing website.

Getting help with diagnostic imaging and scans

Diagnostic imaging and scans allow doctors to view and take images of the inside of your body. The type of imaging depends on your symptoms and what your doctor needs to see. Your doctor will decide what scans you need and give you a referral. Diagnostic imaging and scans include:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • nuclear medicine scans
  • MRI scans
  • ultrasound.

Most imaging is painless. You just need to stay still for a period of time inside a machine. Some tests involve exposure to some radiation. For some tests you may need an anaesthetic.

Diagnostic imaging providers set their own fees. Before your test you should ask how much you will have to pay. If the provider chooses to bulk bill you, you won’t have to pay. Read more about bulk billing.

Your doctor may give you a form for one brand of diagnostic imaging provider. You are free to choose your own provider as long as they offer the scan you need.

You can choose to add your diagnostic imaging reports to your My Health Record. This means you and your doctor can access them. Read more on the My Health Record website.

Page last updated: 20 May 2019

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