The old saying of ‘how long is a piece of string?’ is relevant in answering the question of how much cancer costs.
Treatment associated costs
Treatment associated costs depend on the course of action chosen. For example, choosing between private doctors and specialists will incur greater out of pocket costs when compared to the choice of being treated via the public health system.
For patients who choose to use the private health sector, it may be worth asking about the costs and limitations of cancer treatment. They may consider asking their health insurer:
- Which treatments are covered?
- Which are not covered?
- If they claim for a particular treatment, will it affect their future treatments?
- What’s the gap that they would have to pay?2
The type of cancer and the stage of cancer diagnosis can also impact cost to your client3. Cancers that are not as common as others will also see patients incur greater costs. There is also the concern regarding how much will be covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which varies.
Non-treatment associated costs
Non-treatment associated costs for a cancer patient include things such as having to take time off from work to attend doctors, specialists, treatment and any scans, as well as travel expenses which increase the further the distance a patient has to travel.
Cancer patients may also be under the care of someone, who may also have to attend appointments and therefore having to potentially take time off from work. If they are a partner, finances may take an additional hit as two wages may be impacted.
A research letter conducted in 2018 by ‘The Medical Journal of Australia’, found that three quarters of patients with breast cancer incurred out of pocket costs of up to $17,200 during the five years after diagnosis4, which included both direct and indirect medical costs. Other types of cancers have even greater expenses, with a quarter of cancer survivors paying doctors upfront fees of more than $20,000 over two years4. The above is just an example of what some people have experienced, and it’s important to understand that the costs can vary depending on a patient’s course of action.