4363.0 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2014-15  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/07/2017   
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This topic refers primarily to those ever told by a doctor or nurse they have cancer, and who consider they currently have cancer (including cancer in remission).

For the purposes of this survey, all cancer reported as current was regarded as being a long-term condition. Given the potential sensitivity of the topic, this was considered the most appropriate approach, although it was recognised that some cases of cancer may not meet the six month threshold (e.g. a person who is diagnosed with skin cancer and who has had surgery to successfully remove the cancer, could occur within a six month period).

This module also asks all respondents, regardless of whether they have cancer, whether they have ever been tested for cancer (e.g bowel, prostate, breast, cervical, other).


Information was obtained for all persons in the 2014-15 NHS.


Information about cancer was first published in the National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15 based on a sample of 19,259 people. Additional information relating to actions taken for cancer was also published in Health Service Usage and Health related Actions, Australia, 2014-15.

All respondents were first asked whether they, or any one else (i.e. partner or GP) regularly checked their skin for any changes in freckles or moles.

All respondents, regardless of whether they have cancer, were also asked whether they had ever been tested for any type of cancer.

Those who indicated they had ever been tested for cancer were then asked:

    • What type(s) of cancer they had been tested for (More than one response was allowed):
    • Males:
      • Bowel (e.g. had a faecal occult blood test)
      • Prostate
      • Other.
    • Females:
      • Bowel (e.g. had a faecal occult blood test)
      • Breast (e.g. had a mammogram)
      • Cervical cancer (e.g. had a pap smear)
      • Other
    • Whether they had been tested for any type of cancer in the last 2 years and , if so, what type(s) of cancer they had been tested for in the last 2 years with the same response options as above.

Respondents were then asked if they had ever been told by a doctor or nurse that they had cancer, and the type of cancer (including type of skin cancer) they had. In the 2014-14 NHS, a 'don't know' category was included in this question.

The following predefined 'type of cancer' categories were included on the questionnaire, with provision for interviewers to record one additional type of cancer if required:
    • Skin cancer (including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma)
    • Colon/rectum/bowel cancer (colorectal)
    • Breast cancer
    • Prostate cancer
    • Lung cancer (including trachea, pleura and bronchus)
    • Cervical cancer
    • Cancer of other female reproductive organs (including uterus, ovary)
    • Bladder/kidney cancer
    • Stomach cancer
    • Leukaemia
    • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
    • Other type of lymphoma
    • Cancer of unknown primary site
    • Other cancer (specified).

More than one response was allowed.

Those who reported having been told that they had skin cancer were asked what type of skin cancer they had:
    • Melanoma
    • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
    • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
    • Other form of skin cancer.

More than one response was allowed as well as a 'don't know' category.

Those who reported having been told they had cancer were also asked:
    • Whether they were currently receiving treatment for their cancer
    • Whether they currently had cancer (including cancer in remission) and , if so, the type(s) of cancer they currently had (including type of skin cancer).
For the purposes of this survey, persons in remission were regarded as still having cancer, irrespective of the period of remission. That is, they were asked "Including cancer which is in remission, do you currently have cancer?".

Respondents who identified as having breast cancer were asked at what age they were first diagnosed.

Respondents who reported that they currently had cancer were sequenced to the Actions module where they were asked about consultations with health professionals, use of medical facilities and time away from study/school or work, in relation to, or as a result of, their cancer.

Respondents were asked in a later module about all medications and health supplements they were taking, but not in relation to any specific condition.

Data items

The questionnaire, data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.


Points to be considered in interpreting data for this topic include the following.
    • As noted above, current cancers were assumed to be long-term (of six months or more duration), whether or not this was actually the case.
    • Those cases of cancer reported through the 'Long-term conditions' module, rather than the 'Cancer' module, have not necessarily been diagnosed by a doctor or nurse. These respondents are identified by their conditions status of 4: Not known or not ever told, but condition current and long-term. In particular, self-diagnosed skin cancer may be subject to misreporting.
    • Because this is a household-based survey, people with cancer who are residents in hospitals, nursing or convalescent homes or similar accommodation were outside the scope of this survey.

Comparability with 2011-12

Cancer data are considered directly comparable between the 2014-15 and 2011-12 NHS.

The following changes were made in the 2014-15 NHS:
    • The cancer module was reordered so that the cancer testing questions were asked first, followed by the prevalence questions.
    • Respondents were shown a prompt card listing the type of cancer tests they may have had. These prompt cards were not used in the 2011-12 NHS.
    • A 'don't know' option was included in the 'Whether ever told has cancer' question.
    • In 2011-12, respondents were only asked whether they had been tested for any type of cancer in the last 2 years, while in 2014-15, they were asked to report for each of the specific types of cancer within the cancer testing questions for males and females.