The advice from the DH's Cancer Diagnostics Advisory Board sets out when GPs should consider referring patients with symptoms suggestive of cancer, where use of the two-week wait pathway is not appropriate.
In non-urgent cases where symptoms still need investigating, best practice referral guidelines explain how GPs should use local direct access diagnostics.
It covers use of direct access non-obstetric ultrasound, chest X-ray, flexible sigmoidoscopy and brain MRI.
The guidance forms part of the government's £450m programme to achieve earlier diagnosis, set out in the DH's cancer strategy.
The government's aim is to have less than 1% of patients waiting longer than six weeks for a diagnostic test.
The DH has estimated that 5,000 lives could be saved each year if England achieved cancer survival rates at the European average.
An RCGP audit published in November found GPs investigate and refer three-quarters of patients with cancer within two consultations.
However, a GP investigation in September revealed how PCT restrictions on access to diagnostic scans risk delaying diagnoses and 'deprofessionalising' GPs.
The RCGP warned in January that government plans to monitor GPs' use of diagnostic tests must set clear standards to avoid clinicans being wrongly accused of inappropriate referrals.