Radiation therapy under Medicare for consumers

This page provides information on aspects of radiation therapy for consumers.

Page last updated: 18 February 2016

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring cancer patients have access to high quality and affordable cancer treatment, regardless of their location or financial means. Approximately 40% of cancer cures are attributed to radiotherapy, 1 or radiation therapy. There is evidence that around 48.3% of patients with cancer in Australia would benefit from radiotherapy at some stage during the course of their illness.2

Radiation oncology is the treatment of cancer using radiation therapy. Although radiation therapy is largely used for the treatment of malignant disease or cancer, it also has a role in the management of benign (non-cancerous) conditions such as pituitary tumours, meningiomas, arteriovenous malformations, acoustic neuromas and the trigeminal ganglion for trigeminal neuralgia. Radiation therapy also has a small role in other benign conditions – usually in conjunction with surgery – including keloid scars, pterygia, heterotopic ossification and thyroid orbitopathy.

Radiation therapy is largely used for the treatment of cancers, both with the aim of cure or as a palliative treatment to provide symptom relief. As a curative treatment, radiation therapy may be the primary treatment or used as an adjunct to other treatment such as surgery. Sometimes radiation therapy is given with chemotherapy.

Radiation oncology services (including radiation therapy) are supported by the Australian Government through Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates, safety net benefits for patients and funding for radiation oncology treatment equipment through the Radiation Oncology Health Programs Grants (ROHPG) Scheme .

Further information about the Australian Government Department of Health national leadership role in ensuring access to radiation oncology treatment can be found on the Information for Health Professionals - Radiation Oncology web page.

There are a range of private and public radiation therapy providers in each state and territory. Both private and public radiation therapy providers deliver high quality treatment, regardless of the technology they use. A list of treatment facilities located in each state and territory can be found at the following Radiation Oncology and Radiotherapy Services – Treatment Facility Locations.

Additional information about radiation therapy services including accommodation, travel schemes and treatment options can also be found at Radiation Oncology and Radiotherapy Services – Treatment Facility Locations.

The AIHW Radiation Therapy Waiting Times Report for public radiation therapy providers can be accessed from the AIHW website.

A review of the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants (ROHPG) Scheme is currently underway which will help to ensure that Commonwealth funding of radiation therapy equipment in Australia is contemporary, fair and equitable. Written submissions are currently being invited. Submissions close on 4 March 2016.

Further information about the review can be found on the ROHPG Scheme Review page.

For information about Medicare eligibility, claims and services please contact:
Patients telephone 132011
Providers telephone 132150
Email Australian Government Department of Human Services
Web site Australian Government Department of Human Services
Other web site MBS Online

1 Radiation Oncology Tripartite Committee, Planning for the best: Tripartite National Strategic Plan for Radiation Oncology 2012-22.
2 Review of Optimal Radiotherapy Utilisation Rates, Barton et al. 2013.