Checking for cancer

What to expect -

Checking for cancer

Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who might have cancer.  This information explains what to expect while you’re getting checked out. Your carer, family and community might also find this information helpful.

There are also guides that tell you what to expect for your type of cancer. Click here to find guides about different cancer types.

Download a printable PDF of this page.

1. Your doctor visit

Doctor checkingIf there are changes in your body that could be due to cancer, it’s really important to have them checked out.

Finding cancer early gives you the best chance of getting better and living well. You can talk to your doctor, Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Health Practitioner or Liaison Officer or a health professional you trust.

When you visit your doctor, they can check to work out what’s happening. Doctor visit If you want to see either a male or female doctor, ask if this is possible. It may help if you write down questions and take them with you to your appointment.

You can take family or other people to support you at your appointments and tests, or ask if an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Health Practitioner or Liaison Officer can be there.

Doctor visitTalk to your doctor about

  • any new or unusual changes in your body
  • how you are feeling
  • whether you are in any pain
  • any other health problems you have
  • whether anyone in your family has or had cancer
  • any other problems that are worrying you

Your doctor will talk with you about your needs, answer your questions and tell you where to get information and support. You can ask for information that makes sense to you.

What happens next?

The doctor will tell you whether you need to go for tests or see a specialist doctor. You can ask the doctor to write this down for you. Your doctor should give the specialist information about your health and your tests.

2. Having tests

Doctor visitYour doctor or specialist will tell you if you need tests, and where to go to have them. Your personal information will be kept private and only shared with health professionals involved in your care. If you need help getting to your appointment to see the specialist or to have tests, talk to your doctor or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Health Practitioner or Liaison Officer. They can help organise transport for you.

Ask the doctor, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Health Practitioner or Liaison Officer:

  • Why do I need this test?

  • Where do I have it?

  • How will I get there?

  • What happens during the test?

  • Can someone come with me

  • Will it cost me money?

  • What will the test tell me

  • When will I know the results?


Doctor visitWhat happens next?

Your doctor or specialist will get the test results and talk to you about them. You can take family or other people with you for support.


Doctor visitAsk the doctor or someone in your health care team to explain anything you don’t understand. Someone from your team should make sure you have the information and support you need.

3. Getting help and support

Doctor visitThere is information and support available when you’re getting checked out for cancer. You can get support for:

  • physical symptoms, such as pain, feeling sick or feeling tired
  • emotional needs, like fear, sadness and anger
  • practical needs, like help with transport and costs of your care
  • information needs, to help you understand more about what may happen.


Doctor visitAsk your doctor or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Health Practitioner or Liaison Officer where you can get more information or support. Your health care team can connect you with other services and health professionals to make sure you stay as well as you can.

4. Information and support

Doctor visitCancer Australia
For information and resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer, visit canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/atsi/resources-people

Cancer Council
For information and support call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 Nurses can answer your questions about cancer, explain what will happen during your cancer care and link you to support groups and other community resources

Cancer Council Online Community
To connect with others in a supportive online community for people affected by cancer, visit onlinecommunity.cancercouncil.com.au

Carers Australia
For support and advice for carers, call the Carers Association on 1800 242 636

National Indigenous Cancer Network
For information about cancer, and resources and links to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by  Cancer, visit www.nican.info