Lifesaving Screenings Shouldn’t Come At A Cost: Breast Cancer Network

More than 18,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and doctors say 1 in 5 need an MRI for treatment planning

A breast cancer diagnosis is scary enough as it is, but many women are then being stung with a fee for what could be a lifesaving screening.

Breast MRIs, which are needed by thousands of patients each year aren’t always subsidised by Medicare, therefore costing battlers up to $1000 for the screen.

“I think it’s so unfair…it was something that saved my life,” said Jessica Braude whose seven millimetre tumour was only picked up in a preventative MRI.

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Braude has a family history of breast cancer and was scheduled to have an annual MRI – in her very first scan they found a small but potentially deadly lump.

She’s since had a full mastectomy but credits the MRI with saving her life.

“My lump was so small that I wouldn’t have been able to feel it, nor would a doctor and it wasn’t able to be detected on a mammogram or ultrasound,” she said.

Her screening was subsidised but it has her asking why it isn’t accessible to more patients.

According to Breast Cancer Network Australia, the costs associated with the scan are creating a two-tiered system making the lifesaving treatment only available to those who can afford it.

“(We’re) calling on the extension of the MRI rebate to ensure we stop these inequities,” said Kirsten Pilatti, the CEO of Breast Cancer Network Australia, as it makes a second application for MRI funding.

Clinical Oncologist, Fran Boyle told Ten Eyewitness News “bill shock” adds more stress to the diagnosis.

“(I) think MRIs should be available to all patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer… it can be the difference between having a mastectomy, having chemotherapy or having your second breast diagnosed and treated correctly,” she said.

In one case, a woman discovered a large lump in her right breast following a mammogram and was due to have it cut out.

However a further investigation in an MRI scan revealed a smaller tumour hiding behind it and another lump in her other breast.

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This discovery completely changed her treatment plan and she avoided a second cancer diagnoses down the track.

MRIs not only assist those 18,000 people diagnosed every year, but also cancer survivors who want to ensure it doesn’t come back.

Andrea Bolte has the scan annually at a cost of $800 and says it takes a huge chunk out of the family budget.

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“For us it’s been 10 years so it’s been a huge ongoing expense,” she said.

Her wish is for all Australians to have access to the same treatment when battling this insidious disease.

The Department of Health confirmed that the subsidy is only offered in four circumstances where there’s a family history of the disease or publicly funded tests failed to detect the cancer.

It also added that there is not enough clinical evidence to support a Medicare rebate for all breast cancer patients.

READ MORE: Breast Cancer Screening Should Be Easier And I Have A Plan 

READ MORE: Brave Mum-To-Be Diagnosed With Two Types Of Cancer Within Two Years

Contact the author kpratt@networkten.com.au

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