New genetic tests added to MBS schedule

The Australian Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) has just announced that genetic testing for patients with hereditary mutations, including BRCA 1 and 2, predisposing to breast and/or ovarian cancer will now be listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). 

From the first of November 2017, these genetic tests will be available to clinically affected individuals to determine whether the cause of the patient’s cancer is genetic, and estimate their relative risk of a new primary cancer. Predictive genetic testing will also be available for the patient’s family members to establish if the same specific gene mutation is present. 

Dr Melody Caramins, Chair of the RCPA Genetics Advisory Committee, said, “If an individual is a carrier of a BRCA mutation, they will have additional treatments available to them. This is certainly the case if they already have breast cancer, however if they don’t have breast cancer, they will have access to monitoring and the possibility to take preventative measures such as a prophylactic mastectomy. These measures are taken so patients can avoid receiving a positive cancer diagnosis in the first place, if they are susceptible.”  

Dr Caramins also noted that, “Now, with these changes to the MBS, at-risk patients will have access to free testing. The patient criteria to meet the threshold for testing will be regulated, however this change will still enable widespread testing of at-risk patients to take place. We are also expecting to raise awareness amongst individuals to enquire further and establish if they are at high risk. If they are, then they can receive the testing for free in a more accessible and equitable way.”

These genetic tests were available previously but patients either had to wait for six to 12 months to be seen in a cancer genetics clinic at a public hospital or pay $600 for the test in the private sector. 

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