Things to Know About the Cost of Your Cancer Treatment (2023)

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  • Medical expenses of cancer treatment
  • What to ask about the costs of your cancer treatment
  • What to ask about health insurance coverage of your treatment
  • Where to learn more about managing the costs of your cancer treatment

Cancer care and treatment can be costly. It can take a toll on your health, your emotions, your time, your relationships, and your finances. Sometimes, there might be unexpected charges that your health insurance might not cover fully. You might also feel as if you don’t have the energy to deal with cancer and talk about money, too. You might want to ask a trusted friend or family member to keep track of costs for you. Ask this person to go with you to doctor visits and help with these discussions.

Here are some tips on what costs you might be able to expect and some ideas on how to plan for, ask about, and discuss treatment costs with your health care team.

Medical expenses of cancer treatment

Learn as much as you can about cancer and your cancer treatment before it starts. Remember that each person's experience and treatment is different. So, learning and asking questions will help you know what to expect for your situation. It can also help you plan for and deal with the costs related to your care.

Many people with cancer have medical expenses for things like:

  • Provider office visits
  • Clinic visits for treatments
  • Lab tests (blood tests, urine tests, and more, which are usually billed separately)
  • Procedures (for diagnosis or treatment, which can include room charges, equipment, different doctors, and more)
  • Imaging tests (like x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, which may mean separate bills for radiologist fees, equipment, and any medicines used for the test)
  • Radiation treatments (implants, external radiation, or both)
  • Drug costs (chemo or other medicines that treat your cancer that may be inpatient, outpatient, prescription, non-prescription, and procedure-related)
  • Hospital stays (which can include many types of costs such as drugs, tests, and procedures as well as nursing care, doctor visits, and consults with specialists)
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Surgery (surgeon, anesthesiologist, pathologist, operating room fees, equipment, medicines, and more)
  • Home care (can include equipment, drugs, visits from specially trained nurses, and more)
  • Specialist referrals (other specialty doctors, physical therapy, and others)
  • Transportation costs (This may include the cost of travel to receive treatment, be it by car, plane, train, cab, or bus. In some hospitals or clinics, you may have to pay for parking).
  • Some patients need hotels or lodging during treatment. The American Cancer Society might be able to help if you need lodging closer to treatment.

What to ask about the costs of your cancer treatment

Talk with your health care team. They’ll usually know who can help you find answers to your questions, including questions about the costs of your treatment. Here are some questions you can ask about costs. Choose the ones that relate to you and your treatment.

  • How long will I need to be treated and what is the estimated total cost of my proposed treatment plan? Are there any treatment options that might cost less, and how well will they work?
  • For each of my treatment options, how much will my insurance pay and how much will I have to pay myself?
  • Does my health insurance company need to pre-approve or pre-certify any part of the treatment before I start?
  • Is there any way I can get help paying for my treatment? Who can I talk to about financial assistance or help setting up a payment plan?
  • Where will I get treatment? In the hospital, your office, clinic, or at home?
  • If you are taking chemotherapy by mouth, find out how much the prescriptions might cost and if your health care team knows of patient assistance plans that can help pay for the cost of your prescriptions.
  • Find out from your health care team what other prescription drugs you may need along with your cancer treatment, such as drugs to prevent nausea, treat pain, help with anxiety, or to control diarrhea. You might call a few pharmacies to get an idea of where you can get the best price.
  • If you have to stay in the hospital for any of your treatment options, find out if your insurance company needs to pre-approve or pre-certify any services that you will receive during your hospital stay. Find out how much your stay might cost and if you will need services such as rehabilitation or home health care after you leave the hospital.

What to ask about health insurance coverage of your treatment

Out-of-pocket costs are those you have to pay because your health insurance doesn’t or after your insurance company has paid its portion. These costs can add up quickly and may make it hard for you to pay for other things you need. You’ll want to be sure that your health insurance company pays or reimburses the bulk of your medical expenses. This means you’ll need to

  • Know the terms of your insurance policy.
  • Be aware of preferred or network doctors, hospitals, or clinics according to your policy.
  • Keep careful records of your health care costs

If any of your treatments might be done by out-of-network doctors or providers, find out about those costs from your insurance company too. Even when you know the terms of your policy, getting payments can mean re-submitting claims, appealing denials, and much more.

Usually, health care facilities and treatment centers have a financial department that handles health insurance concerns and problems. Ask your health care team if someone can help you with claims and understanding codes on the bills that are sent to the insurance company.

You can find out more about health insurance and other costs at Understanding Health Insurance.

Where to learn more about managing the costs of your cancer treatment

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Has a special section for patients on the costs of cancer care, including a booklet on managing the cost of cancer care in English and Spanish.

    Patient Access Network Foundation (PANF)
    Toll-free number: 1-866-316-7263

    Helps under-insured patients with certain cancer diagnoses cover out-of-pocket costs related to cancer care.

      Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF)
      Toll-free number: 1- 800-532-5274

      Works with the patient and their insurer to resolve insurance problems; also provides direct financial support to insured patients who are financially and medically qualified for drug treatments and/or prescription co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles related to certain cancer diagnoses.

        *Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.

        Our specialists are also available to answer your questions. You can reach them by calling 1-800-227-2345.

        1. Written by
        2. References

        Things to Know About the Cost of Your Cancer Treatment (1)

        The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

        Our team is made up of doctors andoncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

        American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Managing the cost of cancer care: Practical guidance for patients and families. 2015. Accessed at on February 27, 2019. Questions to ask about cost. 2018. Accessed at on February 27, 2019.

        Cancer Support Community. Managing the cost of cancer treatment. 2019. Accessed at on February 27, 2019. Out-of-pocket costs. Accessed at on February 27, 2019.

        Last Revised: May 13, 2019

        American Cancer Society medical information is copyrightedmaterial. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.


        What are the factors affecting the cost of cancer treatment? ›

        The cost estimation was highly dependent on a number factors like, the type of cancer treatment patient needs, how long patient needs to be treated, where a patient will be treated, patient health insurance coverage, whether patient has supplemental insurance or medical costs and hidden costs.

        How much does a typical cancer treatment cost? ›

        At an average total of $150,000, cancer treatment costs are more than four times higher than treatment for other common health conditions.

        How do you manage the cost of cancer treatment? ›

        Ways to manage this include:
        1. Call your health insurance company and talk with a benefits coordinator. ...
        2. Ask about your co-pays, deductibles, coinsurance, and any other costs. ...
        3. Ask how and when to make payments for your medical bills. ...
        4. Understand your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms.
        Mar 1, 2023

        How much is cancer treatment out-of-pocket? ›

        The research team calculated associated total and out-of-pocket costs. The study found that the total mean costs per patient increased from $109,544 to $140,732 for breast cancer patients, an increase of 29%. Costs increased from $151,751 to $168,730 for lung cancer treatments, or 11% jump.

        What is the most expensive cancer to treat? ›

        Breast cancer was also the most expensive type of cancer, costing a total of $3.4 billion, followed by lung cancer and colorectal cancer, which were both estimated to incur around $1.1 billion in costs. According to the researchers, drug costs represent the most expensive category for treating cancer patients.

        What are three factors that contribute to the cost of healthcare? ›

        5 reasons why healthcare costs are rising
        • Aging population. The Baby Boomers, one of America's largest adult generations, is approaching retirement age. ...
        • Chronic disease prevalence. ...
        • Rising drug prices. ...
        • Healthcare service costs. ...
        • Administrative costs.

        Does insurance cover chemotherapy? ›

        Does Insurance Cover Chemotherapy? The short answer: yes, health insurance covers chemotherapy. In fact, insurance covers most cancer treatments that aren't considered experimental. But chemo isn't a single drug or treatment, and health insurance doesn't cover everything.

        Is cancer treatment usually covered by insurance? ›

        Health insurance covers some costs of cancer care. But typically, one plan does not cover all the costs. Other types of insurance are available to cover additional expenses. Supplemental insurance.

        Is cancer treatment expensive with insurance? ›

        How much does cancer cost with insurance? If you're a cancer patient, you can expect to pay roughly $6,000-$10,000 per year out of your pocket for various treatments and therapies. Your insurance provider will cover the remaining balance.

        What is the tax write off for cancer patients? ›

        Cancer patients who qualify for the Affordable Care Act's tax credit may receive a rebate of up to 35 percent of their health insurance premiums. You need to itemize tax deductions instead of taking your standard deduction to qualify. You may deduct any expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

        How many cancer patients can't afford treatment? ›

        According to the latest Survivor Views survey from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), 61% of cancer patients and survivors find it somewhat or very difficult to afford their care.

        What payments can you get if you have cancer? ›

        A cancer diagnosis may qualify as a disability, allowing you to apply for and receive SSDI income, and your condition may even warrant an expedited SSDI application.

        Can insurance deny cancer treatment? ›

        Here are some health insurance situations people often wonder about: If you have a pre-existing condition (a health problem you had before a new health care plan coverage starts), such as cancer or other chronic illness, health insurance companies can't refuse to cover you.

        Why doesn't insurance cover cancer treatment? ›

        Health Insurance Companies Have Often Flouted the Law

        Insurance companies give many reasons for their denial of coverage of certain medical treatments to save themselves money at the expense of cancer patients, including: The cancer treatment is medically unnecessary. The treatment is experimental in nature.

        What is hidden cost of cancer? ›

        These hidden costs of cancer include: extra travel to and from medical appointments. the cost of parking near hospitals. bigger heating bills as people recover at home.

        What is the hardest cancer to fight? ›

        Lung & Bronchus

        Lung and bronchial cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than any other type of cancer in both men and women. Although survival rates have increased over the years due to improved treatments, the outlook is still bleak. The five-year survival rate is only 22%.

        What are the hardest cancers to get rid of? ›

        The 10 deadliest cancers, and why there's no cure
        • Pancreatic cancer.
        • Mesothelioma.
        • Gallbladder cancer.
        • Esophageal cancer.
        • Liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer.
        • Lung and bronchial cancer.
        • Pleural cancer.
        • Acute monocytic leukemia.
        Sep 21, 2022

        What is the most painful cancer to treat? ›

        Primary tumors in the following locations are associated with a relatively high prevalence of pain:
        • Head and neck (67 to 91 percent)
        • Prostate (56 to 94 percent)
        • Uterus (30 to 90 percent)
        • The genitourinary system (58 to 90 percent)
        • Breast (40 to 89 percent)
        • Pancreas (72 to 85 percent)
        • Esophagus (56 to 94 percent)

        What happens if you can't afford chemotherapy? ›

        Treating Financial Barriers As a Medical Issue

        Patients who can't afford their medications should talk to their doctors. Discuss alternative options such as generic drugs or other courses of treatment. Ask to be assigned a social worker or case worker. Advocate for yourself.

        Can you be denied chemotherapy if you can't afford it? ›

        Can I be denied cancer treatment without insurance? You cannot. However, without insurance, you will be charged 100% of the cost of treatment unless you take action. You can negotiate your bill with the hospital.

        How much is chemo copay? ›

        Generally, if you have health insurance, you can expect to pay 10 to 15 percent of chemo costs out of pocket, according to If you don't have health insurance, you might pay between $10,000 to $200,000 or more.

        Is radiation covered by insurance? ›

        Most people have health insurance to help cover cancer treatments and radiation therapy costs, but your policy may not always cover everything. Alternatively, you may not have health insurance. When you have a limited income and find out you now have to budget for this unexpected cost, it can be overwhelming.

        Is HMO or PPO better for cancer patients? ›

        And if someone is relatively healthy and typically only sees their HMO approved doctor for their annual check-up, that might be a great option to keep costs down. However, for someone with a serious medical condition, like cancer, who may see several different specialists, a PPO may be the more appropriate option.

        How does a cancer policy work? ›

        A cancer insurance policy is an insurance policy that pays a lump sum if the policy holder is diagnosed with cancer. These plans have payouts that typically range from $5,000 to $200,000 (plans with higher payouts have higher premiums).

        Are cancer policies worth it? ›

        A cancer policy can help defray the cost of treatment by providing you with either a lump sum payment or helping to cover the costs of individual expenses. While your specific coverage will depend upon policy limits, you'll often receive many thousands of dollars in benefits from a cancer insurance policy.

        How long does it take for insurance to approve chemo? ›

        Some insurance companies can take two to three business days while others can take 10 business days or more to make a decision. If you're in urgent need of treatment, most insurance companies allow you to file an urgent request.

        Does Medicare pay for cancer treatment? ›

        Medicare covers chemotherapy if you have cancer. Part A covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. covers it if you're a hospital inpatient. Part B covers certain doctors' services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.

        Do you have to pay taxes on money received from a cancer policy? ›

        Money you receive as part of an insurance claim or settlement is typically not taxed. The IRS only levies taxes on income, which is money or payment received that results in you having more wealth than you did before.

        Can you claim a cancer policy on taxes? ›

        Are cancer insurance benefits taxable? Typically no because the policies are paid with post tax dollars. However if you purchase a group policy through your employer your benefits may be taxed. Contact your employer for more information.

        What is the IRS medical expense exception? ›

        You can include medical expenses you paid for an individual that would have been your dependent except that: The person received gross income of $4,400 or more in 2022; The person filed a joint return for 2022; or. You, or your spouse if filing jointly, could be claimed as a dependent on someone else's 2022 return.

        What happens if you have cancer and no money? ›

        The American Cancer Society and the local United Way office can also direct people to services in their community. The local Department of Social Services in your city or county may provide food, housing, and other general assistance services. Sometimes they may offer direct financial assistance.

        What is the lowest funded cancer? ›

        Breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma were consistently well-funded, whereas lung, colorectal, liver/biliary tract and uterine cancers were consistently underfunded.

        What happens if you refuse cancer treatment? ›

        You don't have to have treatment.

        People with very advanced cancers sometimes find they'd rather treat the pain and other side effects of their cancer so that they can make the best of the time they have remaining. If you choose not to be treated, you can always change your mind.

        Does Social Security pay for cancer? ›

        In general, any cancer that is Stage IV or terminal will automatically qualify a person to receive disability benefits. A very serious cancer diagnosis qualifies for the Compassionate Allowance program, which expedites the claim for disability benefits to start receiving money quickly.

        Do you get extra benefits if you have cancer? ›

        You may qualify for government benefits if you have cancer or care for someone with cancer. If you have a disability or your cancer is advanced, you might also qualify for certain benefits. Help is available for bills and housing costs, as well as for children's costs and other health expenses.

        Is Stage 4 cancer terminal? ›

        Is stage 4 cancer always terminal? Stage 4 cancer is not always terminal. It is usually advanced and requires more aggressive treatment. Terminal cancer refers to cancer that is not curable and eventually results in death.

        Should I tell my insurance company I have cancer? ›

        Be honest in your life insurance application. If you aren't upfront with your insurer about your health, such as if you don't disclose a cancer diagnosis, your insurer could later deny paying out your death benefit altogether.

        Which of the following medical expenses does cancer insurance not cover? ›

        Cancer patients often face large, non-medical expenses that are not usually covered by cancer insurance. Examples include home care, transportation and rehabilitation costs.

        Can insurance drop you after a cancer diagnosis? ›

        Usually an existing health insurance policy cannot be changed or canceled due to diagnosis or treatment of cancer.

        What is the average cost of cancer treatment? ›

        Cost of Cancer Treatment in India:

        The average cost of Cancer Treatment in India is INR Rs. 5,00,000. The maximum charge for Cancer Treatment in India is up to INR Rs. 27,50,000.

        What percent of cancer patients lose their life savings? ›

        42% of new cancer patients lose their life savings.

        What are the three main types of financial hardships for cancer patients? ›

        Measures of medical financial hardship encompass 3 domains: material conditions, psychological response, and coping behaviors.

        Which type of cancer is most expensive to treat? ›

        Breast cancer was also the most expensive type of cancer, costing a total of $3.4 billion, followed by lung cancer and colorectal cancer, which were both estimated to incur around $1.1 billion in costs. According to the researchers, drug costs represent the most expensive category for treating cancer patients.

        Which is the most expensive cancer to treat? ›

        Lung/thoracic cancer ($2.9 billion) had the highest total annual cost and multiple myeloma ($9,019, SD $19,962) is the most expensive cancers to treat annually per patient.

        What is the average out of pocket cost for cancer treatment? ›

        At an average total of $150,000, cancer treatment costs are more than four times higher than treatment for other common health conditions.

        What are the 4 factors causing a rise in healthcare costs? ›

        A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study found five factors that affect the cost of healthcare: a growing population, aging seniors, disease prevalence or incidence, medical service utilization, and service price and intensity.

        What are financial issues in cancer treatment? ›

        Financial Impacts of Cancer
        • Cancer treatment costs not covered by insurance and other out-of-pocket payments can result in significant debt that lasts long after treatment has ended.
        • Survivors who can no longer work will lose health, disability and life insurance benefits provided by their employer.

        Why are cancer costs rising? ›

        Given successful advances in treatment, many individuals with cancer are living longer, and some may require treatment for the remainder of their lives. Longer periods of treatment and the rising costs of novel cancer therapies have combined to dramatically increase the financial burden of cancer care.

        What is the most important factor causing health care costs to rise? ›

        An Aging Population

        Since people age 65 and over, on average, spend more on healthcare than any other age group, growth in the number of older Americans is expected to increase total healthcare costs over time.

        What are the top 3 drivers of rising healthcare costs? ›

        This article will delve into the top three drivers of rising healthcare costs: advances in medical technology, chronic disease prevalence, and administrative expenses.
        • Advances in Medical Technology.
        • Chronic Disease Prevalence.
        • Administrative Expenses.
        • Rising Healthcare Cost Can Improve.
        6 days ago

        Who has the most expensive healthcare in the world? ›

        United States. US per-capita healthcare spending (including public and private) is the highest in the world. In 2021, the US spent $12,318 on healthcare and services related to it.

        What are the six factors that have contributed to increases in health care costs? ›

        There are many factors that contribute to the high cost of healthcare in the country. These include wasteful systems, rising drug costs, medical professional salaries, profit-driven healthcare centers, the type of medical practices, and health-related pricing.

        Why is cancer treatment so expensive? ›

        Buildings and technology – Many cancer treatment centers in the United States have state-of-the-art technology and equipment. The cost of upkeep for this technology, as well as regular maintenance costs to run a facility, may increase the price of cancer treatment.

        What are the biggest challenges in cancer care? ›

        • unrealistic expectations of patients and clinicians with regard to the benefit of certain tests and treatments;
        • inappropriate financial incentives in the health care system;
        • overuse and misuse of medical resources and care that does not align with clinical practice guidelines;

        Why are chemo meds so expensive? ›

        Pharmaceutical companies and their spokespersons routinely justify high prices with 4 arguments: (1) high cost of research and drug development, (2) comparative benefits to patients, (3) mercatus vult—market forces will settle prices to reasonable levels, and (4) controlling prices stifles innovation.

        How much does cancer treatment cost with Medicare? ›

        Cost of cancer treatment and chemotherapy with Medicare

        If you have Medicare, the annual cost for cancer treatment and the plan ranges from $3,714 to $10,698, depending on the coverage you choose.

        What are at least four factors involved in the high cost of health care in the United States? ›

        Cutler explored three driving forces behind high health care costs—administrative expenses, corporate greed and price gouging, and higher utilization of costly medical technology—and possible solutions to them.

        Who has free healthcare in the world? ›

        However, Brazil is the only country in the world that offers free healthcare for all its citizens. Also, Norway is the first country in the world to implement a free healthcare policy as far back as 1912.

        What happens if you can't afford healthcare in America? ›

        By federal law, nonprofit hospitals must offer financial assistance to those who cannot pay their bills. Some states also have other laws about uncompensated care, such as Washington, where all hospitals must tell patients about financial assistance programs when they receive care.


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