nib offers members genetic testing to help treat ovarian cancer

06 March 2019

nib offers members genetic testing to help treat ovarian cancer

Women with ovarian cancer can now access genetic testing services in the private health system to help determine their best course of treatment, following a first-ever partnership between nib New Zealand and the New Zealand Family Cancer Service.

This means nib members who are being treated in the private sector, can undergo genetic counselling and testing to help determine what’s best as they move through their treatment. nib New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Rob Hennin said genomic profiling is playing an increasing role in the treatment and management of cancer.

“We want to ensure our members have the best possible treatment to help them fight this insidious disease,” Mr Hennin said.

“It’s crucial in the management of cancer, for both public and private patients, that they access the best advice and treatment possible without too much delay,” he said. nib paid almost $6 million in chemotherapy treatment claims on behalf of members over the 24 months to 2018. Health data shows that between 300 and 350 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in New Zealand.

Genetic testing allows medical practitioners to identify a patient’s Breast Cancer 1 Gene (BRCA) mutation status, which in turn, helps determine best options for treatment. “If a patient carries a harmful BRCA mutation gene, they are likely to benefit from the addition of a type of treatment called PARP inhibitors, which can lower the risk of disease progression, or death, by as much as 70%,’ said doctors Peter Fong (Medical Oncologist) and Ai Ling Tan (Gynaecological Oncologist) from the New Zealand Family Cancer Service.

“Better survival rates are the key for patients. We know the right treatment can extend someone’s life, occasionally by as much as a handful of precious years,” Dr Fong said. “PARP inhibitors have also proven effectiveness in advanced breast cancer patients who carry the BRCA mutation.”

The agreement between nib and the New Zealand Family Cancer Service will also help women who do not currently meet the criteria for public regional genetic counselling to access those services in the private health system.

“We have a real opportunity to help women diagnosed with ovarian cancer fund their treatment and be a true health partner, ensuring they get the right treatment for their needs,” Mr Hennin said.

nib members whose policies include surgical cover can take up genetic testing for ovarian cancer throughout 2019, with the trial period to be reviewed at the end of the year.

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