Personalized Cancer Treatment

Financial Concerns of Cancer

When you hear a diagnosis of cancer, your number one concern may be your health and how it will affect you and your family. Although the financial aspect of cancer is probably not part of your initial thoughts, it can have a great impact on your overall health, happiness and well-being.

Types of costs related to cancer

The financial burden of cancer includes a wide range of typical expenses. Once you know what to expect during your treatment and recovery, you can plan your budget and determine what kind of financial assistance you may need. Costs related to cancer vary from person to person, primarily according to the type of cancer, the recommended treatment plan, follow-up care and level of insurance coverage.

Cancer-related costs affect your household budget in two ways. First, you will have new categories of expenses, such as office and/or clinic visits, treatments, drugs and caregiving. Second, your routine living expenses will increase because of new necessities related to your care, such as transportation and travel-related expenses; child or elder care; meal preparation; housecleaning services; and employment, legal and financial services. It may be difficult, but you may also want to set aside money to enjoy special activities or trips with family or friends to help ease a difficult time.

These additional expenses have a substantial effect on their own, but the effect is often greater because, at the same time, your income may be reduced when you (or your significant other) are unable to work the same number of hours during your treatment.

Prepare for your expenses

Once you start thinking about cancer-related costs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But you can alleviate some of this stress if you can gain a better understanding of the costs and ways to manage them. Start by listing your sources of income as well as your medical expenses, both actual and estimated, to prepare for the financial road ahead. Next, create a budget that accounts for your medical expenses as well as for decreases in income due to less time working.

Don’t take on the analysis burden alone: Ask a family member or another loved one you trust to help you with reviewing your income and expenses. When working on a budget, it may be helpful to include estimated and actual income and expenses, at least for the first few months. Reviewing the differences between the estimated and actual totals will help you make better estimates for future months.

Talk to your health care team

It is vital to talk to your health care team about costs from the beginning. Do not be embarrassed; your health care team understands that cancer treatment can be expensive and may create a financial hardship.

It is crucial to review your health insurance policy and ask the financial staff at your doctor’s office for help in understanding what is covered and what your out-of-pocket expenses may be. Unfortunately, most people today do not fully understand their insurance plan until they are faced with a medical crisis – at the time when understanding your financial responsibilities is imperative.

Do not delay or cancel treatment because of cost. Talk to your health care team about alternative options that may be less expensive but as effective. Avoid selecting a treatment choice on the basis of cost; your priority should be effectiveness. Choose the treatment with the most likelihood of effectiveness and then focus on getting financial assistance.

Seek financial assistance

Many resources for financial assistance exist in a variety of categories, including child care, personal items, counseling services, legal help, wish fulfillment and transportation. Search for resources that best match your needs. In addition, many advocacy groups and other organizations will help you find sources of financial assistance. Social workers, financial counselors and patient navigators at your medical facility can refer you to local organizations that can help. Don’t forget family and friends: They can help you search for financial assistance and can offer advice on what would be most helpful for you and your family.

As you begin your search for assistance, make sure you learn about federal laws that offer benefits, protect from loss of health insurance and guard against discrimination on the basis of your health.

Questions to ask your doctor and patient services representative

  • Who handles financial concerns and questions about insurance?
  • Will I be billed separately for laboratory testing?
  • Will my insurance cover the cost of my tests?
  • What are the expenses I will have if I join a clinical trial?
  • How do the costs of a clinical trial compare with the costs of standard treatment?
  • Can I be reimbursed for any of the costs of a clinical trial?

Questions to ask your insurance company

  • Will my specific test be covered by my insurance?
  • Will I need preapproval before the test is done?
  • Is there a limit on how much my insurance will cover?
  • Are the costs of a second opinion covered by my insurance?
  • If I participate in a clinical trial, will the expenses be covered by my insurance?

Additional Resources

For additional resources that may assist you with your cancer journery, click here.

For organizations that offer financial assistance to people affected by cancer, or that have links to organizations that may provide such help, click here.


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