The Financial Cost of Cancer



June 30, 2020

One of the most common thoughts that come to mind after receiving a diagnosis is “How much is this going to cost me?” 

Cancer is the most expensive disease to treat to date. According to a report from the American Cancer Society Action that examined the cost for three common cancers, the average patient can expect to pay anywhere between $6000-$10,000 per year out of pocket after premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance are factored in. 

The average monthly cost of chemotherapy, one of the most common treatments for cancer, can be $1000-$12,000 depending on the drug and diagnosis. For people who are uninsured or need out of network insurance care that is not covered, these costs only get higher. 

Knowing the potential costs and what questions to ask can help you anticipate and plan for your care.

Medical Cancer Costs To Consider

The stress of covering cancer bills can be overwhelming. There are certain categories of cancer costs that apply to most people faced with a diagnosis. They include:

  • General physician visits

  • Clinic visits for treatments (e.g. oncologist appointments)

  • Lab tests

  • Hospital stays, which can include costs such as nursing care or specialist consultations

  • Diagnosis and treatment procedures, which can include room charges

  • Drug costs

  • Radiation treatments 

  • Imaging tests (e.g. X-rays and CT scans which can result in separate billing for radiologist and fees)

  • Rehabilitation expenses

  • Surgery

  • Specialist referrals

  • Home care 

  • Transportation costs (including hotels or lodging, if applicable)

Top Cost of Cancer Treatment Questions

There are questions that you can ask at your appointments in order to receive the best estimate to financially plan for your treatment:

  • How long will I need treatment and what is the estimated total cost of my proposed treatment plan? 

  • Are there any other lower cost options and how effective are they? How about cancer clinical trials?

  • Are there ways I can receive help paying for my treatment? What financial assistance resources are there in my state?

  • How much will my insurance pay and how much will I have to pay out of pocket for these treatment options?

  • Does my health insurance company require preauthorization for any part of the treatment before I start?

  • Where will I get treatment: in the hospital, at home, at the clinic? 

  • If you are receiving oral chemotherapy, ask about the estimated costs of the prescriptions and if your health care team knows of patient assistant plans that can help with those costs. 

  • What other prescription drugs might I need along with my cancer treatment? (Call a few pharmacies in your area to see which location has the best price).

Financial help for cancer patients is available

Patients and families can also speak with professionals who have resources and guidance to share about financial matters, including assistance for transportation, lodging, children, and elder care.

You might consider hiring a Healthcare Advisor at a time when:

  • You’ve received a bill or estimate outside of your budget and would like to learn more about your options.

  • Your physician or oncologist isn’t responding to some of your questions, related or unrelated to financial assistance.

  • If you are considering consulting with your health insurer or place of work about financial assistance options.

At Caribou, we firmly believe that knowledge is power and your health is our top priority. Connect with a Healthcare Advisor today.