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.

This report presents the latest data on two key measures of the use of cancer screening programs: activity and participation.

Activity data in this report are updated quarterly and are disaggregated by age, by sex where relevant and by state and territory.

Participation data are updated biannually and are disaggregated by age, by sex where relevant, by state and territory, by Primary Helath Network areas and by Statistical Areas Level 3 and Level 2. Preliminary participation data are published ahead of the AIHW annual screening progam monitoring reports and are subject to change.

Note that in this report, all data are considered final unless explicitly referred to as preliminary and all the 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 to compare change over time or differences between areas, please refer to the Methods section of the Technical notes.

All data are sourced from live databases evolving constantly with later supplies being usually more complete.

Summary of the latest results is presented below for each program.

Screening program activity: latest results 

Activity data are counts of events rather than people, such as the number of invitations sent or screening tests conducted. A single person may be counted more than once if they complete more than one screening test during a defined period. Activity data show the scale and volume of work undertaken by the cancer screening programs. These data are useful in understanding the utilisation of screening in health services to assist in future planning.

Bowel cancer screening (NBCSP)

In the March quarter 2023:

  • 846,000 invitations to participate were sent from the NBCSP.
  • 363,000 bowel screening kits were returned.

BreastScreen Australia

  • 259,000 screening mammograms were performed for women aged 50–74 in the March quarter 2023.

Cervical screening (NCSP)

  • 268,000 Cervical Screening Tests were performed for women aged 25–74 in the March quarter 2023.

Screening program participation: latest results

Participation data are counts of individual participants in a screening program measured over a period in line with the recommended screening interval for each program. Participation rates are proportions of eligible or invited people who completed a screening test. They measure the extent to which defined target groups are being reached and can inform strategies to improve screening rates among these groups. 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).

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 report, available from the AIHW’s cancer screening reports page.

Bowel cancer screening (NBCSP)

In 2020–2021:

  • 40.9% of people aged 50–74 who were invited to screen participated.
  • Participation was higher among women (42.8%) than men (38.9%).

BreastScreen Australia

Based on 2021–2022 preliminary data:

  • 50% of women aged 50–74 who were eligible for screening mammograms participated.

Cervical screening (NCSP)

Based on 2018–2022 preliminary data:

  • 68% of people aged 25–74 who were eligible for Cervical Screening Tests participated.

What is updated in this release?

This report includes the latest available activity and participation data for the 3 cancer screening programs, as outlined below in Table 1.

Table 1: Summary of cancer screening current data updates in this release:
Screening program Activity Participation

Bowel cancer

March quarter 2014 to March quarter 2023

(quarter/month, state/territory, sex, 50–74 year-olds)

2020–2021 final data

(state/territory, Primary Health Network (PHN), Statistical Area 3 (SA3), Statistical Area 2 (SA2))


March quarter 2021 to March quarter 2023

(quarter/month, state/territory, female, 40–49, 50–74, 75+, 40+ year-olds)

2021–2022 preliminary data (state/territory, age group)

*2020–2021 preliminary data (state/territory, age group)

*2019–2020 final data, Primary Health Network (PHN), Statistical Area 3 (SA3)


March quarter 2018 to March quarter 2023

(quarter/month, state/territory, female, 25–74 year-olds)

*2018–2022 preliminary data (state/territory, age group)

*2018–2021 Primary Health Network (PHN), Statistical Area 3 (SA3)


* indicates those data that have been updated in a previous release. For more information regarding historical data updates please refer to the Notes section.

Refer to the detailed statistical tables for all data and associated meta-documentation in the Data section. For information on the data sources and methods refer to the Technical notes.


AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (n.d.) Cancer Screening Reports, AIHW website, accessed 6 December 2022.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2018) Analysis of cancer outcomes and screening behaviour for national cancer screening programs in Australia, catalogue number CAN 115, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 6 December 2022.