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BCNA News 29 Mar 2019

Access to more affordable scans a major step forward for Australians with breast cancer

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) welcomes the Australian Government and Opposition announcements that both parties will extend the Medicare rebate for breast MRI and PET scans for Australians with breast cancer.

BCNA has been calling for an extension of the Medicare rebate for breast MRI for the past decade after women with breast cancer have reported spending between $450 and $1,500 on a single scan. This change was a key recommendation in BCNA’s State of the Nation report released in 2018.

“This is another step forward in reducing the inequality in healthcare in Australia. Many women with breast cancer are recommended to have an MRI scan as part of their treatment work-up and without a Medicare rebate the cost can be significant – we have heard of women paying up to $1,500 for a single scan. Having to forgo a scan because you can’t afford it puts you in a difficult situation, especially if your doctor, who you know and trust, has recommended it,” BCNA CEO Kirsten Pilatti said.

“Making the best possible treatment decision is important when you are newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast MRI scans enable you to work with your doctor to make decisions that are right for your particular diagnosis and personal circumstances, but the cost of these scans can really impact a family budget. A Medicare rebate will make MRI scans more affordable for Australians with breast cancer, and will give them the option to have evidence-based, clinically-relevant imaging that can help with their treatment planning,” Kirsten said.

“PET scans are particularly important for some women and men with metastatic breast cancer, and it’s important they are available particularly where a metastatic cancer is difficult to diagnose. They are also used to monitor whether treatments are working. Many people with metastatic disease will have PET scans over a number of years, and the costs for these can quickly add up to thousands of dollars,” Kirsten said.

“These announcements are a major step forward for Australians with breast cancer. Providing Medicare rebates will enable more people to access these important scans and will help them and their treating teams to make evidence-based decisions about their treatment.”

“I would like to acknowledge the work of women around the country in the BCNA network, health professionals especially Professor Christobel Saunders who led the work in this space and past BCNA CEOs who have been calling for these changes to be made for a long time.”