The Cost of Cancer – Planning for Survival

Jan-cancer-costs-imageNo one plans to have cancer. Aside from the shock and anxiety for the future a diagnosis brings, cancer also presents a financial situation that few people fully consider. Huge medical bills, on top of the typical expenses like college loans, mortgages, and car payments, can leave survivors concerned about their finances. Despite this, there are a variety of precautions and preparations that can be taken to limit the impact of a diagnosis from a financial perspective. The effects of cancer can certainly rear its head in many ways. However, with some additional budgeting, cancer patients can put their minds moreso at ease while heading on the road to recovery.

Types of Costs

Costs associated with cancer can present themselves in a variety of ways. A 2017 study from JAMA Oncology shows that cancer patients tend to spend upwards of a third of their income on medical expenses, in addition to their usual health insurance fees. One of the primary causes of debt is of course the presence of medical bills. From seeing primary physicians, specialists, consultants, and other healthcare professionals, each of these visits and additional tests can add up.

For relatively rare cancers like mesothelioma, finding a doctor that specializes in your specific diagnosis can mean traveling across the country regularly. While the main concern when undergoing treatment is of course seeing the specialist that is most likely to save your life, the costs associated with travel are rarely thought of. These travel expenses, from gas money to airfare, can quickly add up.

Not to mention, hefty prescription drug costs that often come out-of-pocket. As one of the fastest growing sectors of healthcare expenses, cancer patients can spend thousands of dollars for their required prescriptions. These medications come in addition to various treatment methods like chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery. With often lengthy periods of treatment, these medication costs can put a definite financial strain on the patient and their family.

Debt from cancer treatment can also accumulate from a lack of income. If the treatment is aggressive, many patients are forced to leave their jobs to focus on their health and recovery. In a household that is used to having two incomes, the loss of that influx of money can certainly make an impact. If the diagnosis requires extended periods of time away from your profession, the patient may also come back from recovery to find that the work is no longer relevant or is done differently. This retraining period can be another obstacle altogether. In the case of older demographics, this can also deal a significant blow to retirement savings. As a result, cancer patients are around 25 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than those without cancer.

Even after the cancer patient has been through the final stages of treatment and is considered in remission, there are routine check ups to ensure that person stays healthy for years to come. All of the regular medications, treatments, and evaluations to keep cancer at bay will also come with a price tag. While beating cancer is clearly a blessing, this is an additional cost that many do not anticipate maintaining for the rest of their lives.


While it may be difficult to plan for cancer, there are some steps that can make the diagnosis less of a burden on the patient’s finances. Taking precautions with various forms of insurance and an emergency savings can go far to ensure the survivor and their family are protected. Health, life, and disability insurance are all small yet highly effective steps to take when planning for the future. It’s a great idea to establish a Health Savings Account (HSA,) which allows for contribution to a savings store for healthcare expenses directly from the person’s paycheck, before taxes. Even as a young person new to the workforce, taking out insurance and creating an account for health related expenses can be very beneficial and will keep your mind at ease for years to come.

If found in a stressful financial situation due to medical expenses, be sure to consider all of your options via financial assistance programs and debt service providers. There are a variety of professionals that specialize in debt management and refinancing that can help a patient through a difficult time as they start on the path to financial recovery. In the meantime, strict budgeting and monitoring income closely can allow for cutting down on what’s not necessary and saving where possible. Additionally, in certain cases like mesothelioma, the cancer victim may be eligible for compensation in a legal setting with the help of a specialized mesothelioma lawyer. Because this type of cancer develops due to exposure to asbestos, this may be an advisable route to explore if wrongfully exposed in the workplace.

Although talking about and planning for the future can seem daunting, taking adequate measures to prepare for the unknown can make all the difference when faced with a cancer diagnosis. Taking out insurance, saving for emergencies, and maintaining a tight financial ship will put a patient in the best position to focus on treatment and recovery. Battling cancer is difficult enough without having to worry about each added expense to save your life, but taking these precautions in advance will leave you and your loved ones prepared in case the unthinkable happens.