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Paying For Breast Cancer Treatment

Know Your Treatment Plan And Financial Resources

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Updated August 19, 2010

Your breast cancer diagnosis will affect your health, relationships, schedule, and wallet. Cancer treatments are expensive and your costs can add up quickly. You can get help paying for breast cancer treatment from your health insurance provider, Medicare, Medicaid, or other financial assistance programs. Once you have decided on a treatment plan, you can gather information and make a financial plan. Being prepared for your financial share of the cost of cancer treatment is a wise step to take.

Factors That Influence Breast Cancer Treatment Cost

If you're wondering what your total treatment cost will be, that's a good sign that you're ready to make a financial plan or a budget. Your cost won't be just the same as another patient's because your diagnosis is unique and your treatment plan will be tailored just to you. It's good to get an estimate of the cost in advance of treatment, but keep in mind that things can change as you move through this journey. Blood tests, imaging studies, physical therapy, and additional medications may drive up the overall cost. Many things will influence your cost of treatment - here are some to keep in mind:

  • Type of Treatments: Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy, Biological Therapy
  • Duration of Treatment: Total Amount of Time Needed To Complete Treatment
  • Frequency of Treatments: How Often Treatments Are Scheduled
  • Treatment Setting: Home, Clinic, Hospital

Paying For Breast Cancer Treatment

Health Insurance Can Help
If you were on a private or managed health insurance plan before your diagnosis, you'll have a lot of help with the costs of breast cancer treatment. Call your insurance provider and tell them your diagnosis and treatment plan, then ask about details of your coverage, deductibles, premiums, and co-payments. Speak to the financial director at your oncology clinic and make sure they accept your type of insurance. If it's going to be a stretch to pay all the bills, ask about payment plans and financial assistance. You might want to set up a health savings account (HSA) to save for cancer-related expenses as well cutting down on taxes.

Help For Uninsured Or Low-Income Breast Cancer Patients
There are many resources available for you if you are a low-income patient, uninsured, or not working when you need treatment. In the United States, there are Medicare and Medicaid programs that can help you pay for cancer care. Some states offer state-subsidized health insurance. Check in your county for hospitals that offer programs for screening, treatment, and support for cancer patients. If you have served in the military, call your local Veterans Administration office and ask about your health benefits. Someone at your oncology clinic may know about local nonprofit organizations that help with the cost of cancer treatments. Get help now, and after treatment when you're back on your feet, you may be able to reach back and help someone else.

People To Ask About Financial Help
Whether or not you have health insurance, you may still need some financial help. Knowing who to ask for that help is one way to get started. Speak with the financial director at your oncology clinic about payment programs, financial aid, and local organizations that help out with cancer costs. Your doctor is a good resource to check with about clinical trials, which may be available for little or no cost to you. At the hospital, check with their social worker to learn what financial assistance resources may be within your reach. These same people may also know of sources for practical assistance that you may need during treatment.

Not All Expenses Are Medical
During and after treatment for breast cancer, you may find yourself spending more on everyday goods and services that just make your life easier. Your diet may change, and you may spend more on food, comfort clothing, home entertainment, and travel expenses. Sometimes you may need over-the-counter medications to help you cope with side effects of treatment - those won't be covered by any kind of insurance. You might need to pay for housecleaning services, childcare, or home health care. There are family members, friends, neighbors, and charitable organizations that can help provide some basic assistance, if your money won't stretch that far. Your support team may help out by holding a fundraiser, setting up a website to collect donations, or involving a church or civic group to provide hands-on help.

Bottom Line on Paying For Breast Cancer Treatment
There's no doubt that cancer is an expensive disease to have and to treat. No matter what your diagnosis is, if money appears to be a barrier to treatment, seek help - don't skip the treatment. The longer you go without treatment after a diagnosis of cancer, the more expensive it will be to treat later on. So make it easy on your health, your family, and your budget - prepare to meet the cost of breast cancer treatment by knowing your treatment plan, understanding your health insurance, and seeking help with the cost of care. Your life is priceless, so do what it takes to regain your strength and health.

Sources:

After Diagnosis: A Guide for Patients and Families. How will I pay for all this? American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 07/07/2010.

Resources for Financial Assistance for Patients and their Families. National Cancer Institute. Accessed on August 9, 2010.

The Cost of Cancer Treatment. American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 07/07/2010.

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