Average cost of breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer statistics are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 264,000 cases in women and about 2,400 in men each year, causing 42,000 deaths in women and 500 in men each year.

And breast cancer can also be very expensive.

In a 2020 study, the American Association for Cancer Research found that 47% of young women with breast cancer struggled with money as a result of their care. No wonder, since the average cost of treatment during the same year ranged from $20,000 to $100,000.

If you’ve been diagnosed, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for the financial hardship it may cause. The last thing you want to do is make financial decisions that negatively affect your health, as many do. A 2021 Cancer Action Network study found that 24% of people with cancer delayed or skipped a prescription due to cost, and 11% cut pills in half or skipped doses.

So how much does cancer treatment cost? Here’s what to expect and how you can mitigate some expenses.

The average cost of breast cancer treatment

The cost of breast cancer treatment varies depending on a number of factors. Chief among them is whether or not you have health insurance. Without insurance, your total costs can be $10,000 to $200,000, but if you’re insured, your share can be 10 to 15 percent of that, according to CostHelper.com.

The stage of your cancer is another main cost factor.

Step 0 $60,637
Stage 1/11 $82,121
Step 111 $129,387
Step 1V $134,682
Average cost for all stages $85,772

Early intervention is not only better for your physical health, but also for your finances. Once a lump is detected, it may start with the costs of a breast biopsy, but it certainly doesn’t end there.

So what awaits us? Here are the most common breast cancer treatments and their average costs:

Obviously, all of these breast cancer treatments can add up. Managing them on your own is prohibitively expensive for all but the very wealthy. Having good health insurance certainly helps, but no insurance plan covers all related costs. It is therefore important to know what is covered.

Depending on your plan, you may be financially responsible for 10 to 30 percent of total medical costs, BreastCancer.org reported. Check your plan’s copayments and deductibles, as well as what drugs and procedures are covered.

Indirect expenses

Initial and basic medical care is only part of the costs faced by many breast cancer patients. There are a host of others, and these expenses can add up quickly too. For instance:

  • Physical therapy. You may need sessions with a physical therapist to recover from pain and improve your range of motion. If you are insured and have met your deductible, the average payout per session is $20 to $60. Without insurance, the average cost is $50 to $155.
  • Mental health treatment. Getting mental health care is often important. Many cancer patients suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia and difficulty eating. In-person therapy typically ranges from $65 per hour to $250, although telehealth therapy sessions may be more affordable.
  • Acupuncture. Many breast cancer patients report joint pain when taking medication. Acupuncture has been shown to alleviate it. If you would like to try this method, the average cost per session is $112 for initial visits and then $80 for follow-ups, although some insurance will cover the cost for cancer patients.
  • Wig for hair loss. If chemotherapy is causing hair loss, you may want a wig. Health insurance plans usually cover some or all of the cost, but you can also get one for free from the American Cancer Society. If you were to purchase a wig without financial assistance, the average price starts at $30 for synthetic hair to several thousand for human hair.
  • Travel/parking costs. Depending on your situation, you may need to travel long distances, stay in hotels, or take taxis and ride-sharing services. Even parking at designated cancer treatment centers can add up.
  • Follow-up mammograms. Most insurance plans provide 100% coverage for approved mammography costs. If you don’t have insurance, you can expect to pay between $100 and $250.

On top of all these costs, you may also have to factor in time spent not working or having to quit your job altogether. In this case, you may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance. In most cases, however, it will be less than what you are used to.

After you finish your treatment, you may continue to have additional expenses related to your breast cancer. You may need more doctor appointments, different tests, and ongoing mental health care. Because each person’s situation is unique, it’s hard to estimate what it might be for you, but try to project and then build your budget around that.

How to save on cancer care where you can

Even with good health insurance, managing all the costs associated with breast cancer can be overwhelming. For this reason, you’ll want to save in ways that don’t hurt your care, but reduce your expenses.

If you don’t have health insurance, HealthCare.gov can help. Everyone is eligible through the Marketplace, and you can even get grants to help pay your premiums.

Make sure you know what is and isn’t covered by your health insurance company, to avoid unnecessary surprises. Also contact your health care provider’s oncology financial advisor and explain your economic situation. You can discuss billing issues with your advisor and set up a payment plan if needed.

Always communicate with your doctor about ways to save money on prescriptions. Generic versions may represent a small fraction of the brand name drug. Request free samples of your medications and look for coupons for the medications you need from reputable companies like GoodRX.

In some cases, a credit card can also help cover medical expenses. If you can manage the payments, a credit card that doesn’t charge interest for a long time might be helpful. With a 0% APR credit card, you can pay off your medical bills over a year or even more with no finance charges during that time. Here are some of the best credit cards for medical expenses.

Do not hesitate to ask for help from peers and professionals. Contact the Susan G. Komen Breast Care Helpline to find a support group. When you come into contact with people who are going through what you are going through, ask them how they have handled their financial affairs. CancerCare and the American Cancer Society are other great national organizations to contact.

The bottom line

A diagnosis of breast cancer is scary. As you go through your treatments and focus on your recovery, you will face medical bills and expenses that you have never had to pay before. They can pile up quickly and turn into debt which can cause even more stress. Stay in touch with your doctor and hospital so they are aware of your financial situation, which can prevent bills from being collected, and use all the resources available to you. When you have a good idea of ​​the potential costs, you can take steps to prepare so that they are not too shocking.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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