Optimal Care Pathways

Optimal Care Pathways outline a national standard of high-quality cancer care.

Optimal Care Pathways

There are Optimal Care Pathways covering 25 cancer types and one for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer. 

Each Optimal Care Pathway has 7 steps that outline ideal patient-centred care, optimal timeframes, diagnostic tests, referral pathways and recommended health professionals across the stages of care, from prevention to survivorship and end-of-life. 

The Optimal Care Pathways include overarching principles that, if applied, can optimise cancer care in different contexts and circumstances.

See all the guides related to Optimal Care Pathways >

How Optimal Care Pathways are developed

The Optimal Care Pathways are published by Cancer Council Victoria and Department of Health Victoria. They were developed in collaboration with health professionals, consumer representatives, stakeholders and organisations.

They are endorsed by Cancer Australia and all states and territories.

Embedding Optimal Care Pathways into cancer services

The Cancer Institute NSW has supported the localisation of Optimal Care Pathways since 2015, specifically supporting local health districts and primary health networks to embed referral pathways between primary and tertiary care.

The Cancer Care Pathways toolkit was developed to provide a practical guidance for health professionals to develop and disseminate local care pathways for the referral and diagnosis of cancer.

The Institute’s work along the Optimal Care Pathway

As NSW’s statewide cancer control body, the Cancer Institute NSW supports the health system to deliver programs across the cancer care continuum and is guided by the NSW Cancer Plan’s priorities and principles—equity of outcomes, person-centredness, and collaboration. In this way, our work falls along the Optimal Care Pathway steps and connects with its underlying principles.

The Cancer Institute NSW aims to:

  • increase awareness of cancer risk and cancer care
  • develop and disseminate evidence-based clinical care information
  • support cancer research and evaluation
  • support quality improvement initiatives in cancer services and clinical practices.

The Cancer Institute NSW works to achieve these objectives by:

  • developing information, including websites, toolkits and clinical education resources
  • providing grants to support research and quality improvement initiatives
  • delivering screening and prevention programs
  • leading professional networks and engaging with colleagues in the health system reporting on health service delivery.

Optimal Care Pathway


  • Patient-centred care
  • Safe and quality care
  • Multidisciplinary care
  • Supportive care
  • Multidisciplinary care
  • Supportive care
  • Care coordination
  • Research and clinical trials
  • Communication
  • Multidisciplinary care
  • Supportive care
  • Multidisciplinary care
  • Supportive care


  1. Prevention and early detection
  2. Presentation, initial investigations and referral
  3. Diagnosis, staging and treatment planning
  4. Treatment
  5. Care after initial treatment and recovery
  6. Managing recurrent, residual or metastatic disease
  7. End-of-life care

Cancer Institute Programs

  • Tobacco control
  • NSW Multicultural Cancer Programs
  • BreastScreen NSW
  • Canrefer
  • Reporting for Better Cancer Outcomes
  • Patient Reported Measures
  • eviQ
  • Bowel cancer screening
  • NSW Aboriginal Cancer Programs
  • Clinical trials and research
  • eviQ Education
  • Patient information
  • Data and statistics

Programs of work

These are some examples of the Cancer Institute NSW programs of work and how they connect with the Optimal Care Pathway.

Program of work

Connection to Optimal Care Pathway

Tobacco control

Smoking cessation is a major preventative strategy for all cancers and people diagnosed with cancer should be encouraged to give up smoking before, during and after treatment.

Bowel cancer screening

Risk stratified bowel screening leads to early detection of bowel cancer. Timely access to colonoscopies is necessary for optimal care.

BreastScreen NSW

Population-based screening leads to early detection of breast cancer and better outcomes.

Primary care portfolio

Primary care health professionals should be involved throughout cancer care pathway.


People with cancer should be referred to a specialist who is a part of a multidisciplinary team and appropriate cancer centre for treatment.

Patient Reported Measures

Patient-reported measures should be incorporated into routine cancer care.


All cancer care should be safe, high-quality and evidence informed.

eviQ Education

Safe and high-quality care is care provided by appropriately trained and credentialed health professionals.

Patient information

People with cancer have access to appropriate, accurate and understandable health information.

Aboriginal Cancer Program

Cancer care and programs should be equitable and culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Multicultural Cancer Programs

Cancer care and programs should be equitable and culturally appropriate for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Clinical trials and research

Participation in clinical trials should be considered at each point on the pathway, clinical trials should be accessible. All cancer care should be safe, high-quality and evidence informed.

Reporting for Better Cancer Outcomes

Safe and quality care includes monitoring and reporting on performance and outcomes of cancer treatment.