Medicare rebates for genetic testing

Two new items added to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) on 1 November will make it easier for women with breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and their family members, to have genetic testing.

The first is for genetic testing for women who have been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer and who are assessed as likely to have an unidentified genetic mutation that increases their risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

A Medicare rebate of $1,200 is available for a test of up to seven genes, including the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This rebate will help women who have been Medicare rebates for genetic testing diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer to understand more about their risk of developing a new breast or ovarian cancer in the future.

If you have been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, you may be able to access genetic testing under this rebate if your family history or the clinical  characteristics of your cancer put you at high risk of having a genetic mutation.

Your cancer specialist or GP will be able to assess your risk using one of the established tests that predict the likelihood that someone has a genetic mutation that increases their risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

Features that may point to this possibility include:

  • being aged 40 years or younger when you were diagnosed with breast cancer
  • being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at a young age
  • having a number of first-degree relatives with breast and/or ovarian cancer
  • being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

Speak to your specialist or GP if you would like to know whether you can access genetic testing using this new rebate.

If you are found through genetic testing to have a genetic mutation, a Medicare rebate of $400 is now also available for family members to determine whether they also carry this mutation. This new rebate will help family members understand more about their individual risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer and make decisions about options to reduce their risk of cancer.

About 5-10 per cent of breast cancers are due to inherited genetic mutations such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

If you are concerned you may have an increased risk because of your family history, your GP or local family cancer clinic will be able to provide you with more information.

You can also download or order BCNA’s Family history fact sheet from the BCNA website.

Issue 81
Summer 2017