Finding Stability

8 Financial Concerns About Cancer Treatment Addressed

A cancer diagnosis brings up all kinds of anxieties and questions, including financial concerns. It pays to seek out expert advice to find answers to these questions.

Your cancer diagnosis brings up all kinds of anxieties, including financial concerns. It’s overwhelming, but there are some basic financial issues you can investigate on your own. Here is a list of questions you can ask your care team as you determine your treatment path.

What Does Your Insurance Cover?

This depends on your specific health situation, desired treatment and insurance type. According to Drug Watch, insurance usually covers your major costs, like hospital visits, but it rarely covers all of them. Tests, clinical trials and procedures may not be included, especially the most expensive ones. While figuring out a treatment plan, set up an appointment with your insurance company to outline all your medical costs. When talking to your cancer team, make sure to express all your concerns about how much it will cost. You want to talk about how much insurance covers for each treatment option.

What Will You Pay Out-of-Pocket for Medications?

While insurance probably covers some of your medication, you may still pay some out-of-pocket costs. According to U.S. News & World Report, you may end up paying 20 to 30 percent of your own money for drugs, adding up to about $24,000 to $36,000 a year. Some companies have special programs to help people with the cost of expensive medications, so research the drug companies that make your therapies. If you’re concerned about this financial aspect of your treatment, the American Cancer Society has a step-by-step guide for how to apply for a drug assistance program. They also recommend getting a bulk supply of medications, switching to generic and comparing medication prices on websites such as GoodRx.

Can You Still Get Life Insurance?

You may not have thought of life insurance before your diagnosis, but you’ll probably be concerned about your family’s financial concerns if something happens to you. Trusted Choice says you’re still eligible to get life insurance, but it depends on lots of factors, including what type of cancer and treatment you have. Make an appointment with an insurance agency to assess your specific situation or meet with your office’s human resources representation if you’re still working.

Actually, Can You Still Work?

This depends on your condition and your doctor’s recommendation. Review your options specifically with human resources. If you’re in an early stage of a non-aggressive cancer, you may be able to work, taking days off when you have to go to treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, your employer is required to provide you with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a serious health concern. Check with the United States Department of Labor for your state’s specific qualifications.

What About Accessories?

Beauty concerns may not be at the top your financial concerns list, but the costs of these supportive accessories add up. According to, a synthetic wig is the cheaper option compared to the real hair variety, but it can still cost anywhere from $30 to $500, while also factoring in the costs of additional hats and scarves and new clothes if your weight changes. Thankfully, you don’t have to rack up a huge bill just to look and feel your best. Your insurance may cover at least partial cost of your wig. When with your doctor, ask for a prescription for an “extra-cranial prosthesis” to submit to your insurer. For wardrobe concerns, ask friends, coworkers and family for donations.

What Are the Hidden Costs of Cancer?

Along with the costs of products you didn’t need before your treatment, just having cancer strains your bank account. Some expenditures you may not automatically think of are gas and parking to get to treatment, child care payments and, if you have to travel far, lodging and meals costs. For example, if you live 50 miles from your cancer center, you have to factor in at least your gas costs both ways, wear and tear on your vehicle and a cost for lunch into your cancer budget. To combat these costs, see if family members can watch your kids, look into Meals on Wheels programs, carpool to support groups or consider a cancer center closer to your home.

How Can You Manage Your Medical Debt?

According to, studies show that 25 percent of long-term breast cancer survivors go into debt just to pay for their treatment. While it’s scary to think of going into debt, you can seek out financial assistance to deal with this burden. Check in with a social worker during treatment, and keep track of your finances by having a designated place for bills and putting finance time on your calendar. As well, US News & World Report suggests a few ways of dealing with your medical concerns. Have a friend set up a crowdfunding page for your on Kickstarter, and practice negotiating so you can haggle you way to a lower (and fairer) bill.

What Organizations Provide Financial Assistance?

Places such as United Way and your local faith-based organization provide help or can direct you to programs that are appropriate for your specific situation. You can also check in with your care team, like your doctors and social worker, for additional resources. For your financial concerns, including lodging and pharmaceutical costs, check out the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition or this extensive list from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, for guidance.

Navigating the financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis is tough. But resources and specific actions can keep the burden from derailing your treatment.

The UVA Cancer Center has a dedicated team of financial coordinators to help you learn about your out of pocket costs and the overall cost for your care. If you have questions regarding your coverage, bills or other financial issues related to your medical care, please let us help.

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Kimberley Sirk
Kimberley Sirk