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Price of Life: Cancer Treatment Cost

By uds uds | February 19, 2019

Cancer Treatment Cost - Universal Drugstore

What Is the True Cost of Cancer?

We all know someone whose family has been devastated by cancer, since over 15 million Americans fight some type of cancer in their lifetime.

Not only do patients suffer physically, but the costs of cancer affect them and their families financially. In 2014 alone, patients spent over $4 billion of their own savings – after their insurance companies paid out.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, find out what makes cancer treatments so costly and how to properly plan for treatments. Understanding the costs of cancer treatments can help ease the stress of fighting this terrible disease.

What Are the Types of Cancer Treatment?

Depending on the type of cancer you’re diagnosed with, you’ll have a range of treatment options. Common treatments for cancer often include surgery, radiation, and pharmacological therapy. Consult with your oncologist to determine the best options for you. Oftentimes, a combination of treatments works best.


There Are Three Primary Approaches to Cancer Treatment

Factors Contributing to the Costs of Cancer

Regarding the cost of cancer treatment, there are many variables that can factor into how much you have to pay. Unfortunately, medical care is expensive, but the following information might help you make a more well-informed decision regarding your treatment and insurance options.


Health insurance

The biggest factor contributing to the cost of cancer treatment is your health insurance and how much they will cover. Of course, if you receive cancer treatment without health insurance, you are expected to pay all of your costs out-of-pocket, like:

Depending on your insurance provider and plan, you might still owe money toward your insurance (before receiving benefits). You might have to pay for the procedure on your own until you reach your premium or deductible (otherwise known as “sharing costs” with the insurance company).

Treatment Plan

Since there are many cancer treatment options (e.g. radiation therapy, surgery, pharmaceutical drugs) doctors will often choose a combination. Usually, a patient has to undergo radiation multiple times and may need to take a mix of medications during their treatment. Each visit adds up, and necessary treatment can span months or even years.

Drug Costs Vary Greatly

The amount of money a patient owes for their medicine depends on pharmaceutical companies. In the US, there are no governmental restrictions for what these companies are allowed to charge, so they create their own prices. For example, one drug (Kymria) cost patients $475,000 per treatment.

Geographic Location

If multiple treatment options exist in your area, the cost might be lower due to competition. In a place that doesn’t have as many options available, you’ll likely have to pay more to receive treatment. You should also factor in transportation costs for each treatment location.

Treatment Setting

Depending on the treatment, it could be located at a small clinic, hospital, or physician’s office. Each place will have various costs attributed to staff, equipment, treatment, etc. Often, the patient doesn’t get to choose where they’d like to receive treatment.

Cancer Treatment Cost Statistics

Cancer Treatment Cost Statistics - Universal Drugstore

In the US, $147.3 billion was spent on treating cancer in 2017. This cost is expected to rise as new, innovative procedures are discovered and more people are diagnosed with cancer.


How Much of My Cancer Treatment Will Be Covered by Insurance?

It is crucial to be insured, because without health insurance, you will have to pay for your cancer treatment on your own (and up front). It depends on the type of cancer (and how extensive treatments are), but over the course of just 5-6 months, the average cancer treatment costs an insured patient up to $10,500 out-of-pocket. These shared costs include reaching a deductible, paying premiums, and paying co-pays/co-insurance.

With an individual insurance plan and an employer sponsored plan, you will have to pay the most out-of-pocket in the first few months of treatment. If you have an employer sponsored plan, you pay yourself until you hit the co insurance maximum, then you just pay copays and premiums. If you have an individual plan, you pay on your own until you reach the out-of-pocket maximum. With a government sponsored plan, it’s typical to have higher premiums, but more protections and limits on how much you pay each year for treatment.

Studies show that if you have insurance provided by either an employer, individual private plan, or government plan, the majority of your total bill will be covered. The cost of treatment can easily be over $200,000, depending on the type of cancer and length of treatment. If you don’t have health insurance, this cost will be financially devastating.

Health insurance in the U.S. is notoriously known for being extremely costly. Before you purchase a plan, shop around and compare prices. If possible, see whether your employer will cover some/all of your health insurance. If not, consider turning to government insurance. Go over the fine print and understand exactly what is and isn’t covered, how your premium is affected, what your co-pay will be, etc.

How Should I Approach the Treatment Process?

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you’re faced with extreme challenges like treatment options, health insurance costs, and prospective financial issues. It’s important to be as knowledgeable as possible to appropriately handle all of the complications that go along with cancer, so you can focus on your health.

What to Ask Your Doctor About Treatment and Medications

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctors or health insurance provider any questions you have about the long road ahead of you. They’re there to help, and if you can save money and time (without skimping on your healthcare), it’s absolutely worth it. Ask them about:

Drugs Approved for Different Types of Cancer

A few cancer drugs approved for the four major cancer types in the US are listed below. Some cancer drugs may be indicated for more than one type of cancer.
Drugs Approved for Breast cancer: Afinitor (Everolimus), Arimidex (Anastrozole), Aromasin (Exemestane).

Stay Current on Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is one of the toughest things an individual and family can go through. Having some form of insurance coverage is the smartest decision in your cancer battle. Your insurance provider will take care of the majority of costs, but the patient will still have to pay out-of-pocket. A way to cut down on treatment costs is to find the best, most affordable cancer drugs available, and see if it’s possible to use generic brands. Hopefully, this information will help you stay well-informed and give you the ability to plan ahead during this difficult time.

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