Cancer treatment

Cancer treatment in Australia is underpinned by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

Page last updated: 07 June 2011

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Medicare Benefits Schedule subsidise eligible patients for the costs of fee-for-service payments for private medical services and for a high proportion of prescription medications.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Medicare-eligible MRI units
Breast MRI rebate
Initial staging of rectal cancer MRI
Positron Emission Tomography
Radiation Oncology Program
- Radiation Oncology Health Program Grant Scheme
- Radiation Oncology Workforce

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidises an extensive range of cancer treatments, giving Australians access to relevant medicines at an affordable price.

The PBS is managed by the Department of Health and administered by the Department of Human Services. Medicines are listed on the PBS based on the advice of the independent expert advisory body known as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Information about medicines listed on the schedule can be found at the PBS Schedule website and information about the PBS in general can be found in the PBS section of the Department of Health website and also on the PBS website (www.pbs.gov.au)

Medicare-eligible MRI units

People with cancer who require Medicare rebateable Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans have greater access to Medicare-eligible MRI units. Since 2012, the Government has increased the provision of Full and Partial Medicare-eligible MRI units throughout Australia to a total of 349.

MRI technology makes use of strong magnetic fields and radio frequency pulses to generate sectional images of the body in any plane. It is especially useful in examinations of soft tissue. Top of page

Breast MRI rebate

Medicare rebates became available from 1 February 2009 for MRI scans of the breast for women less than 50 years of age, with no signs or symptoms of breast cancer, but who are at high risk of developing breast cancer.

Initial staging of rectal cancer MRI

Medicare rebates became available from 1 July 2009 for MRI scans for the initial staging of rectal cancer. This use of MRI helps both treating doctors and patients to choose the best treatment for rectal cancer.

Positron Emission Tomography

Medicare rebates are available for some positron emission tomography (PET) scans. The majority of Medicare-funded PET scans pertain to cancer.

PET is a nuclear medicine imaging modality using the injection of a radioactive pharmaceutical to show the physiological or metabolic function of tissue. The most frequent clinical use for a PET scan is in the staging and monitoring of specific cancers. Top of page

Radiation Oncology Program

Radiation Oncology Health Program Grant Scheme

The Radiation Oncology Health Program Grant Scheme (ROHPG) assists practices to purchase and replace high cost radiotherapy equipment. The scheme provides reimbursement of the cost of the equipment based on the number of Medicare eligible treatment and planning services provided to patients using the equipment. The ROHPG Scheme aims to:
  • improve health outcomes for cancer patients
  • increase access to radiation oncology services
  • improve equity of access for cancer patients
  • ensure the highest quality and safety of radiation oncology services.

Radiation oncology workforce

To ensure there are sufficient numbers of radiation therapists and radiation oncology medical physicists to staff treatment facilities throughout Australia, funding is provided through a number of programs to support training for these health professionals in both private and public sector facilities. Top of page

Page last reviewed: August 2015