Breast cancer MRI items and PBS listings announced

By Michael Woodhead

2 Apr 2019

Two new Medicare items for MRI of the breast will be available from 1 November 2019, the Federal government has announced.

Patients will receive Medicare subsidised MRI scans to help with the diagnosis of breast cancer in patients where other imaging has been inconclusive and biopsy has not been possible. MRI scans will also be Medicare subsidised for patients to help pre-surgical planning, and allow patients to make the right treatment decision.

The Government will also add PET scans for advanced breast cancer as a Medicare item from November 1 this year, according to a statement released by Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

The announcement was welcomed by Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA), which said some women with breast cancer reported spending between $450 and $1,500 on a single MRI scan.

“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,” the Network’s CEO Kirsten Pilatti said.

Women with breast cancer will gain access to palbociclib (Ibrance) on the PBS from 1 May.

The CDK inhibitor  will be listed on the PBS for the treatment of hormone receptor positive locally advanced inoperable or metastatic breast cancer. Around 3,000 patients a year are expected to benefit from the listing of the drug that would cost more than $55,000 a year for without subsidy.

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