Can You Afford Breast Cancer Treatment?


When we think about someone who is dealing with breast cancer, we automatically start thinking about the physical aspects of the disease. We think about all of the doctors’ appointments and surgeries and all of the various treatments that a woman will face. But what is most often never even thought about is the financial costs for a person who is dealing with this disease.

If you are extremely fortunate, you will have insurance coverage that will minimize the amount that needs to be paid out-of-pocket for everything from the various doctors’ appointments, the tests that will be required such as mammograms, ultrasounds and needle biopsies to just reach the point of making a diagnosis.

Based on the results of these tests, there is usually surgery.  After surgery there may be chemo and or radiation depending on the type and stage of the cancer.

Following the surgeries, there are the bills for the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon if there is reconstruction, the anesthesiologist, the operating room staff and the operating room itself. Add to that the costs of medications for pain, the costs for radiation, chemo and perhaps a pill a day for five years for hormone therapy and you have just gotten through the immediate medical costs.

Costs can reach hundred of thousands of dollars, depending on the extent of treatment.

In this day and age, a large percentage of women are working and are a major contributor, if not the only contributor, to the household expenses. When one is unable to work due to surgery and/or treatment, hopefully they are in a position to receive short-term disability payments or other financial assistance.

If there are children in the household, their care needs also to be factored in to the financial needs. Even then, there are always the extra expenses for car maintenance and gas and insurance that may be greater than usual because of the need to receive care and treatment on a regular basis at some locations that are a distance from home.

According to a recent study, one-quarter of breast cancer survivors are worse off financially four years after their diagnosis, and 12 percent still have medical debt from their cancer therapy. For all of the help that is provided from family, friends and all sorts of organizations and fundraisers, the financial toll that breast cancer takes on the patient and her family is immeasurable. Even though the study reviews statistics after four years, the immediate toll can have long-term effects even if resolved in a shorter period of time. There will be many sleepless nights that patients have worrying about how to pay the mortgage or put food on the table or pay the debts that were accumulated even before the cancer diagnosis.

Then there are the women who reach the limits of their insurance coverage and cannot pay out of pocket to continue their chemo treatment.

There has to be a better way. The devastating effects of breast cancer last a lifetime for every woman and those who are closest to her.

Somewhere in the back of her mind,  “what if it comes back?” always lingers if she is fortunate enough to have the cancer successfully removed. For others, there will be a never-ending program of treatment just to keep the cancer from spreading or growing. No one should ever have to make the decision of whether their life is worth the expense that their care requires.Too many have had to make that choice already.

Edited by:Jean Campbell