The High Cost of Cancer and How to Pay

There’s nothing about cancer that isn’t scary. One factor that consistently adds to that stress is money. Even if the person with cancer has health insurance, there are often treatments or other medical needs that aren’t fully covered.

While the health side of cancer treatment has to be placed in the hands of one’s medical team, the money side of things can be improved when the right steps are taken by a patient and their loved ones.

Each year, more than 1.5 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the United States. The National Cancer Institute further reports that an estimated 609,640 people will die in 2018 from various forms of the disease. Cancer has an $80 billion impact on the economy.

Cancer is not simply a burden on the healthcare industry. In addition to cancer treatments and additional healthcare, those diagnosed incur what can seem like insurmountable expenses.

These may include:


Chemotherapy and drugs that mitigate side effects can cost thousands of dollars per month. Fortunately, pharmaceutical companies provide patient assistance programs, although not everyone will qualify. The American Cancer Society notes that priority is typically given to those not covered by insurance or those whose medications are not covered and who do not qualify for state or federal prescription drug assistance.

Child Care

Not often considered is the family impact of cancer treatment. Parents with young children may also incur the additional expense of child care and, potentially, support services, such as counseling to help their children cope with their parent’s disease diagnosis. There are numerous ways to offset these costs including employer and student subsidies, sliding-scale child care centers and grants provided at the state level.

Home Management

Child care is only one aspect of life that must continue to be managed despite receiving cancer treatment. It might become necessary to hire an individual to help with lawn care, meal preparation, transportation, or other day-to-day responsibilities. There are many non-profit and community agencies that provide direct financial assistance and resources for those diagnosed with cancer. Cancer survivor and coach Jeannine Watson provides an extensive list of financial assistance for cancer patients.

Dental Care

It’s estimated that more than one-third of cancer patients undergoing treatment develop moderate to severe oral side effects as a result of chemo or radiation therapy. notes that Medicare Advantage does provide some extra dental benefits and medication coverage for Medicare recipients. There are also numerous free dental care providers throughout the United States, often via universities and dental schools. Many churches also provide income-based services for low-income families in their community.

Legal Matters

While everyone’s situation is different, legal issues often arise with the diagnosis of cancer, especially if a terminal diagnosis is given. The Cancer Legal Resource Center in conjunction with Loyola Law School offers confidential, no-cost education and information regarding cancer-specific legal issues. There are also many online outlets that provide legal document templates for drafting a will, power of attorney, or medical decree.


A terminal cancer diagnosis will end in death. But paying for a funeral creates added financial stress that can decrease your quality of life. The average funeral can cost $10,000 or more. Getting life insurance after a cancer diagnosis is very unlikely, so it’s important to get a life insurance policy as soon as possible. Although you may not have a history of cancer in your family, a life insurance policy can certainly help if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. So, it’s never too early to look into different plans and rates. To help you determine how much you’ll pay per month for your policy, use a rate calculator from a company such as Haven Life, which will determine your premium and coverage based on the term length.


Cancer treatment requires being on-site at your oncologist’s office, but getting there can be a problem and often results in reliance on public or private transportation. Lyft has partnered with the American Cancer Society to offer transportation for cancer patients (paid for by the ACS) in several major US cities. Fortune offers more information on this program.

Disability insurance can help!

If you purchased disability insurance before you were diagnosed with cancer, it might pay for many of the above expenses. Keep in mind, however, that this depends on the type of disability insurance you have and whether or not you’ve passed the waiting period. Short-term disability will only cover you for up to two years; long-term disability, on the other hand, will have a much longer benefit term of up to and including lifetime.

There’s no way to get around the added costs associated with a terminal illness. However, there are programs that can make these unexpected expenses more manageable. Take the time to research your options or, better yet, entrust a friend or family member with the task.

So…. if you are still confused  (or maybe even more confused!), and want to talk with an expert who can walk you through your options…. lets set a time to chat!

Or shoot me an email if that’s more your style-

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