skip to main content
1800 500 258

BCNA News 12 Oct 2017

BCNA welcomes new Medicare rebates for genetic testing

BCNA welcomes the announcement that two new items will be added to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) on 1 November, which will make it easier for women with breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and their family members, to have genetic testing.

A Medicare rebate of $1,200 will be available for a test of up to seven genes, including the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, for women diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer who are assessed as likely to have a genetic mutation that increases their risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

This rebate will help women who have been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer to understand more about their risk of developing a new breast or ovarian cancer in the future.

‘Women diagnosed with breast cancer already face so many out-of-pocket costs. Finding out whether they have a genetic mutation that increases their risk of breast and other cancers in the future should not be one of them. The rebates will improve women’s access to genetic testing. Timely access is the key. Women who are deemed to be high risk for BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 need this information to help them make informed treatment decisions that are right for them.’ said Danielle Spence, BCNA’s Director of Policy and Advocacy.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer will be able to access genetic testing under this rebate if their family history or the clinical characteristics of their cancer put them at high risk of having a genetic mutation. A cancer specialist will be able to assess women’s risk using one of the established tests that predict the likelihood that someone has a genetic mutation that increases their risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

Factors which may point to this possibility include:

  • being aged 40 years or younger when you were diagnosed with breast cancer
  • being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at a young age
  • having a number of first-degree relatives with breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

Women who would like to know whether they can access genetic testing using the new rebate should talk to their breast cancer specialist.

‘Having breast cancer is a very stressful experience and we all worry that it will come back. The thought that you might be carrying a gene fault compounds this anxiety and also raises questions about possible preventative treatment. For instance, the BRCA2 gene fault I carry brings a higher risk of ovarian cancer and having the test allowed me to make an informed decision to have my ovaries removed. I’m very glad to hear that gene testing is going to be within reach of more women,’ said Domini Stuart, BCNA Consumer Representative.

If women are found through genetic testing to have a genetic mutation, a Medicare rebate of $400 will be available for family members to determine whether they also carry this mutation.

This new rebate will help family members understand more about their individual risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer and make decisions about options to reduce their risk of cancer. 

The new items will be added to the MBS on 1 November 2017. This follows an application by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) to the Medical Services Advisory Committee. BCNA congratulates the RCPA on their advocacy on an issue of importance to many women diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer and their families.

Approximately 5 to 10 per cent of breast cancers are due to inherited genetic mutations such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Australians who are concerned that they may have an increased risk of breast cancer because of their family history should speak to their GP or local family cancer clinic.

More information