Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Call for access to better technology for breast cancer:

The national breast cancer screening program was devised almost 25 years ago and is out of date says Dr Sue Ulreich.
By Motherpedia
Date: October 29 2013
Editor Rating:

The Federal Government is being urged to let better technology prevent more deaths from breast cancer.

“While mammograms, which are central to Australia’s breast screening program do a great job, a mammogram is not the only – or even the best – technology to detect breast cancer,” according to Dr Sue Ulreich, President of the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association (ADIA).

“As we all know, breast cancer is a mammoth health issue for 50% of the population, so the current health system needs to be changed to bring the best technology to bear.

“For example, studies have provided strong evidence to show Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a more sensitive test and can provide more accurate results than mammography – but the current funding system heavily restricts MRI use.

“This means cancers can go undetected for longer, significantly reducing survival chances.

“If you are fighting breast cancer or you’re in remission, diagnostic imaging is vital to your chances of a successful outcome. But the current Medicare settings mean too many women – generally women on low incomes and/or those with multiple health issues – are financially locked out of the best options,” Dr Ulreich said.

Women under 50 with a prior history of breast cancer cannot claim MRI examinations on Medicare – despite the fact they are at high risk of developing subsequent cancer.

More generally, a definitive diagnosis of breast cancer requires a biopsy or aspiration guided by mammography or ultrasound. Computed Tomography (CT), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Nuclear Medicine also play important roles in treating patients with breast cancer, tracking the disease process or monitoring their response to treatment.

“The national breast screening program started almost a quarter of a century ago. As you’d expect technology has moved on since then,” Dr Ulreich said.

“But too many of these newer procedures simply cannot be claimed through Medicare, and those that can are often just too expensive because the ‘gap payment’ has grown so wide.”

“This is what Medicare was created to prevent – but it’s been allowed to fail.” 

Each day in Australia, seven women die from breast cancer and around 50 women are diagnosed with breast or a gynaecological cancer.

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