Medicare-funded cancer genetic tests: a note of caution

Judy Kirk, Kristine K Barlow-Stewart, Nicola K Poplawski, Margaret Gleeson, Kathy Tucker and Michael Friedlander
Med J Aust 2018; 209 (5): . || doi: 10.5694/mja17.01124
Published online: 3 September 2018

Clinicians need appropriate education and support in keeping pace with the genomics revolution

Media headlines stating that genetic testing for patients with a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer are now free are somewhat misleading. Clinical genetic testing for heritable, germline mutations (pathogenic variants) in two major genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) that are associated with a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer came into Australian practice in the mid-1990s, and were offered free of charge (but not under Medicare) to appropriate patients in public clinics. Until now, testing, which has proven clinical utility,1 has mostly been offered through a network of family cancer clinics and genetics services that provide expert genetic counselling and testing of these genes in the context of familial breast and ovarian cancer.

  • 1 Westmead Hospital, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  • 3 Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, SA
  • 4 Hunter New England Local Health District, Newcastle, NSW
  • 5 Prince of Wales Hospital and Community Health Services, Sydney, NSW


Competing interests:

All of the authors are involved in a research study about the mainstreaming of genetic testing for patients with ovarian cancer, which is funded by AstraZeneca. Michael Friedlander, Kathy Tucker and Margaret Gleeson have received honoraria for educational talks for AstraZeneca; Michael Friedlander has also participated in an advisory capacity.


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