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BCNA News 16 Aug 2019

BCNA’s progress on our top five priorities for change in 2019

Following consultations and research with our members, BCNA identified five priorities for change in 2019. Below is a summary of our progress to date.

  1. Faster access to new and innovative breast cancer treatments and diagnostic tests

Following extensive lobbying by BCNA and others, BCNA welcomed the Australian Government’s 2019 Budget announcement of $32.6 million to extend the Medicare rebate for breast MRI and PET scans for Australians with breast cancer. 

From 1 November 2019, the Medicare rebate for breast MRI scans will be expanded to allow people requiring a breast MRI as part of their diagnostic scans or pre-surgery planning to claim a rebate. The Medicare rebate for PET scans will be extended to Australians with metastatic, or suspected metastatic, breast cancer where PET is recommended to help stage the cancer.

We have provided submissions in support of new gene profile tests for breast cancer, including Oncotype DX, and new breast cancer drugs, including Nerlynx for the treatment of HER2-positive early breast cancer. We expect to know outcomes on both by the end of the year.

Following a major campaign by BCNA to have CDK inhibitors listed on the PBS for people with hormone receptor positive metastatic breast cancer, palbociclib (Ibrance) was added to the PBS on 1 May for people with newly diagnosed metastatic breast cancer. This follows the listing of ribociclib (Kisqali) in July 2018. BCNA continues to work with stakeholders to have these drugs subsidised for later line treatment.

  1. Reducing the financial burden of a breast cancer diagnosis

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced in March this year that the Government would fund the establishment of a national searchable website to provide the public with greater access to information about the costs of specialist services. IThis announcement resulted from advocacy by BCNA, Cancer Council Australia, Consumers Health Forum and other organisations about the high out-of-pocket costs experienced by many cancer patients.

The Minister has now set up the Out-of-Pocket Costs Transparency Working Group, tasked with determining how the website can best meet patient needs. BCNA CEO Kirsten Pilatti has been appointed to the group to represent the views of Australians affected by breast cancer.

  1. Improved access to specialised breast cancer nurses or cancer care coordinators for people with metastatic disease

BCNA welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement in January this year of $27 million to the McGrath Foundation to train 41 additional breast care nurses over the next four years, including 30 nurses to support Australians with metastatic breast cancer. 

BCNA continues to lobby for better access to specialised breast care nurses or cancer care coordinators for people with metastatic breast cancer.

  1. Better management of lymphoedema

Our State of the Nation report identified access to lymphoedema services as one of the major gaps in care.

In June, BCNA convened a teleconference with representatives of the Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA), Lymphoedema Action Alliance, state and territory lymphoedema associations and support groups, and several BCNA Consumer Representatives to discuss how we can all work together to improve access to lymphoedema treatment and subsidised compression garments.

The meeting was very successful, and we have agreed to continue to work closely together. The group welcomed the Australian Government’s election commitment of new funding for compression garment schemes in the states and territories, and BCNA is working with the ALA to ensure the best possible use for these funds.

  1. Improved access to breast reconstruction

BCNA continues to work to ensure women are informed about their breast reconstruction surgery options before their breast cancer surgery and that reconstruction surgery is available in an affordable and timely manner across Australia.

Most recently we have been involved in the discussion around the TGA’s proposal to ban textured breast implants, sometimes used in implant reconstruction surgery, because of their suspected association with a rare form of lymphoma called ALCL. For more information on this issue, see our website.