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BCNA supports new MBS item for 3-D mammography

BCNA News 30 Apr 2018

BCNA supports new MBS item for 3-D mammography

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) welcomes the Government’s announcement to fast-track the process of creating an item number for 3-D mammography following the MBS Review Taskforce Diagnostic Imaging Committee's positive recommendation. 

BCNA CEO Kirsten Pilatti says, “We know that many women in Australia have already benefited from 3-D mammography but have often had to pay for the entire test out of pocket. Feedback from our members since the announcement has led us to realise just how much the costs of this test can vary. We have heard from hundreds of women who have told us they have paid anything from $150 to $600 out-of-pocket for a 3-D mammogram. The inclusion of the new Medicare item number will help ensure that this technology becomes an affordable part of routine breast cancer testing for any woman who presents with a lump that is difficult to diagnose”.

“BCNA commends the Government on pushing forward with this initiative. We hope that it is just the beginning of new reform stemming from the MBS review that will help reduce out-of-pocket costs for women with breast cancer and make it easier to detect new cancers in Australian women,” says Kirsten.

Three-dimensional mammography (also called digital breast tomosynthesis, digital tomosynthesis, or just tomosynthesis) creates a three-dimensional picture of the breast using X-rays. Several low-dose images from different angles around the breast are used to create the 3-D picture. This is in comparison to a conventional mammogram that creates a two-dimensional image of the breast from two X-ray images of each breast. 

Several studies have found that 3-D mammograms find more cancers than traditional 2-D mammograms and also reduce the number of false positives. A false positive is when a mammogram shows an abnormal area that looks like cancer but turns out to be normal. Whilst the absence of cancer is good news, confirming that a suspicious area is normal usually requires follow-up with more than one doctor and extra tests, including a possible biopsy. All of this means more worry, more invasive procedures and additional costs for the woman. 

Breast cancer expert Professor Christobel Saunders says, “The multiple images of breast tissue slices give doctors a clearer image of breast masses. 3-D mammography can be a very useful diagnostic test that makes it easier to detect small stellate breast cancers that can be harder to see on a regular mammogram.”

The 3-D test can also be helpful for women with suspicious breast lumps who have dense breasts because regular mammography can be less sensitive to detecting breast cancer in these women. A 3-D mammogram releases the same amount of radiation as a traditional mammogram. It is of no greater risk to the woman.

If you would like more information about 3-D mammography and whether it might be of benefit to you as part of your breast cancer tests/scans or as part of your follow-up care, talk to your surgeon or your GP.