New Medicare-Funded BRCA Testing – Use With Caution

GPs may have to correct some patients’ misunderstanding following reports in the general media suggesting that testing for high risk cancer genes was now available to everyone free of charge.

Writing in the latest issue of the MJA, Australian genetics experts say that testing for specific high- risk genetic mutations, especially BRCA1 and BRCA2 has been available to appropriate patients free of charge (but not Medicare-rebated) by genetic specialists in public clinics for over 20 years.

What’s new is that these tests now attract a Medicare rebate and you don’t have to be a genetic specialist to order them, but they are still only available to selected patients.

“Testing is appropriate when there is at least a 10% chance of identifying a gene mutation responsible for the personal or family history of cancer, ” the authors of the article wrote.

There are a number of algorithms available to help clinicians calculate whether the likelihood of having one of these cancer-causing genetic mutations is at least 10%.

Usually testing ...

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