Early detection and diagnosis — primary care

Up to 85% of cancers are diagnosed after symptomatic presentation to primary health care.1,2

As a person’s first contact with the health system, primary health care plays an important role in cancer diagnosis through:

  • recognising and monitoring early signs and symptoms and identifying where there is a reasonable suspicion of cancer
  • assessing patients at increased risk of cancer due to family history or lifestyle factors.

General practitioners (GPs) contribute to improving cancer outcomes through investigations that result in early stage diagnoses. GPs are pivotal in organising relevant and timely investigations in line with Optimal Cancer Care Pathways (OCPs).

GPs refer to the most appropriate facility and specialist for cancer-related treatment. It is critical to ensure that patients are referred to specialists working within a multidisciplinary cancer care team (MDT).3,4 MDTs are best practice in Australia; they have been shown to have a positive impact on patient outcomes and are also important in facilitating timely and appropriate communication with the primary health care sector.


Helpful resources

Explore early detection and diagnosis resources

Health professionals play an important role in helping us reduce the impact of cancer in NSW. Discover our information and resources created specifically for health professionals.

Canrefer helps you find cancer specialists, hospitals and cancer centres, and multidisciplinary cancer care teams across NSW and ACT. Specialists who are active members of multidisciplinary cancer care teams are listed on Canrefer.

Find specialist centres across NSW and ACT where patients can receive cancer treatment for the management of specific cancer types.


1. Emery JD. The challenges of early diagnosis of cancer in general practice. Med J Aust 2015; 203 (10): 391-393. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley. com/doi/full/10.5694/mja15.00527

2. Rubin G, Berendsen A, Crawford SM, et al. The expanding role of primary care in cancer control. Lancet Oncol. 2015;16(12):1231-1272. doi:10.1016/ S1470-2045(15)00205-3

3. Tambe B, Wang CV, Noren E, Duldulao MP, Barzi A, Lee SW. Tertiary Care Multidisciplinary Teams Associated with Improved Survival in Rectal Cancer Patients: A Comparative Study. Am Surg. 2018;84(10):1645-1649.

4. Rankin NM, Lai M, Miller D, et al. Cancer multidisciplinary team meetings in practice: Results from a multi-institutional quantitative survey and implications for policy change. Asia Pac J Clin Oncol.