Find Cancer Early for General Practitioners

In Australia, over 75 per cent of cancers first present in general practice as a result of symptoms.1 General Practitioners (GPs) play a key role in the early detection of cancer, however they can often experience challenges in early diagnosis of cancers;

  • GPs will only see five to 10 new cases of cancers (excluding skin cancers) among several thousand consultations per year.
  • Most symptoms of cancer have more common benign causes.
  • Cancers in general practice often present initially with more subtle non-specific symptoms.1

Find Cancer Early aims to promote earlier detection and diagnosis of four of the most common cancers in Western Australia (WA); colorectal, lung, prostate and breast.


Find Cancer Early: A Guide for General Practitioners

‘Find Cancer Early: A Guide for General Practitioners' is a tool designed to assist WA GPs in the early diagnosis of patients with colorectal, lung, prostate and breast cancer. The resource utilises an evidence-based approach


 Download Find Cancer Early: A Guide for General Practitioners (pdf, 371kb)

To learn about 'Find Cancer Early: A Guide for General Practitioners' and how to utilise it in your practice, view the video below:


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Developed in consultation with the Cancer Council WA General Practice Advisory Committee and Professor Jon Emery (Herman Professor of Primary Care Cancer Research, University of Melbourne); the guide incorporates risk assessment tools (positive predictive value tables) developed from the CAPER studies by Professor William Hamilton and colleagues at Cancer Research UK.

Download Find Cancer Early: A Guide for General Practitioners (pdf kb).
Find Cancer Early Guide

The guide is formatted as follows:

  • Symptoms that best predict cancer
  • Positive Predictive Value (PPV) tables for each of the four
    cancer types: 
    • PPVs quantify the probability of cancer for
      individual and pairs of clinical features
      (in patients over the age of 40). 
    • The risk values represent the proportion of people out
      of 100 with individual or combinations of clinical features, who will have an underlying cancer. 
    • The colour codes and associated risk values can help support decisions about investigation and referral, and are designed to be used alongside clinical judgement and professional experience. 
      • Probabilities highlighted in red are greater than 5%; urgent referral should be considered.
      • Probabilities highlighted in orange are between 2 - 5% and probably warrant prompt investigation.
      • Probabilities highlighted in yellow are between 1 - 2% and require follow-up and possible investigation to rule out any underlying serious condition.
      • Probabilities highlighted in white are less than 1%.
  • Risk factors
  • Implications for practice
  • Diagnostic pathways
  • Referral criteria
For a full list of references, download the Reference List (pdf kb).

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WA Cancer Referral Directory

It is anticpated the WA Cancer Referral Directory will help to provide information on local (regional and metropolitan) referral contacts of cancer specialists, multidisciplinary assessment clinics and services. Please check before referring patients to visiting specialists to ensure they are still visiting your local area. In time referral pathways will be available through WAPHA Health Pathways.

Download the WA Cancer Referral Directory (pdf kb).

Please email Cancer Council's GP Cancer Education Project for more information.

Find Cancer Early GP Education Webinar Series

The Find Cancer Early Webinar Series welcomes four specialists to present on early detection of cancers in general practice. The series of four webinars provides an update on early detection of colorectal, lung, breast and prostate cancer in general practice, how to assess common symptoms for the probability of cancer, implications for practice when diagnosing patients with suspected cancer, and the recommended referral pathways.


Colorectal Cancer

Presented by: Dr Hooi Ee Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital


Lung Cancer

Presented by: Dr Wei-Sen Lam Medical Oncologist, WA Country Health Service


Breast Cancer

Presented by: Professor Christobel Sauders Professor and Head Division of Surgery, UWA Medical School


Prostate Cancer

Presented by: Dr Matthew Brown Urologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital and Perth Urology Clinic



FCE Checklist

Find Cancer Early patient resources

Find Cancer Early also provides patient resources. The campaign has developed 16 postcards for Aboriginal Australians and other Australians, with plain language information about the signs and symptoms of the five common cancers: bowel, lung, prostate, breast and skin; as well as a cancer symptom checklist postcard and poster.

These resources can be distributed to patients or displayed in GP practice waiting rooms.

Patient resources are available at

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1. Emery JD. The challenges of early diagnosis of cancer in general practice. Med J Aust 2015; 203: 391-393.