MSAC supports the MBS listing of genetic testing for hereditary mutations for breast and/or ovarian cancer
Following the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia’s (RCPA) application to the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC), it is pleased to announce 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).
Effective from 01 November 2017, the 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, “The RCPA is delighted that the application has been successful and that MSAC is supporting the MBS listing of genetic testing for hereditary mutations for breast and/or ovarian cancer. It’s been a long road, however this is a very positive outcome for everyone. It is a huge milestone and will significantly improve the lives of Australians, offering more choice via access to affordable screening and treatment options.”
Importantly, the testing also accounts for the consequences of BRCA 1 and 2 testing for both breast and ovarian cancer prevention and the treatment for all women who are determined to be at high risk. This includes women who have had a relative identified with a BRCA mutation.
“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.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in Australia and the second most common cancer to cause death in women, after lung cancer². BRCA mutations, particularly BRCA2 mutations, are very often associated with an aggressive form of the disease, triple negative cancer. BRCA mutations are also likely to increase the risk of cancers at an earlier age, compared to the general population.
“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,” said Dr Caramins.
“Typically, these genetic tests were of course previously available to patients however this was either inconvenient or costly, as they would either pay for the test privately or go onto a waiting list in a public hospital. The cost of having this test conducted and seeing a specialist in the private sector was around $2,000, five to seven years ago, although more recently, the cost has come down to approximately $600 for BRCA 1 and 2 testing. Generally speaking, the waiting time to be seen by a cancer genetics clinic in the public hospital is around six to 12 months.”
“We strongly support the MBS changes and we expect to identify an increased number of individuals affected by these gene mutations, in order to manage treatments effectively, advise on preventative measures and ultimately save more lives,” said Dr Caramins.