The challenges of early diagnosis of cancer in general practice

Chris Enright, Manager, Priority Populations at Cancer Council Victoria 

Published 7 December 2015

One third of cancers can be prevented and early detection leads to a higher chance of successful treatment.

The Medical Journal of Australia has released an article about the role GPs play in early cancer diagnosis.

The article, The challenges of early diagnosis of cancer in general practice by Professor Jon Emery, outlines the important role General Practitioners play in the early detection of cancer, with symptoms of 75 to 85 per cent of cancers first identified in general practice1.

General Practitioners play an integral role in the prevention and early detection of cancer, but face a balancing act when trying to balance a proactive approach with over diagnosis and treatment.

Cancers often present initially with subtle non-specific symptoms, and with GPs being the first port of call for most Australians, it is important that they are aware of the pathways for referral and screening.

Cancer Council Victoria has various online resources for GPs, including a GP specific cancer information portal (, which includes the Optimal Care Pathways which are designed to help clinicians guide a patient through the referral process as effectively and efficiently as possible.

We support new, evidence based research to inform initiatives which help GPs better manage the early detection of cancers.

People should be aware of what is normal for their body and speak to their doctor if they notice any unusual changes.


1Emery JD, Shaw K, Williams B, et al. The role of primary care in early detection and follow-up of cancer. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 2014; 11: 38-48.