The Cost of Breast Cancer


A breast cancer diagnosis is devastating for many reasons. The questions of how this will disrupt your life, what will treatment be like, and how will this affect your family are common and understandable responses. And for many, these emotional questions are followed by one major financial one: how will I be able to afford cancer costs?

Continue reading to learn more about insurance coverage for cancer, Medicaid and Medicare options, what medical expenses to expect, other treatments that may not be covered by insurance, and additional financial considerations for those with breast cancer.

What Insurance Covers Cancer Care?

In the United States, healthcare and cancer treatment are not guaranteed. Private health insurance will typically cover some, but not all cancer costs. In addition, depending on the private insurance someone has, their plan may only pay for them to see certain doctors or undergo certain treatments. Out-of-network doctors, specialists, and specific treatment options may not be covered.

People without private insurance often rely on Medicaid, a government program that provides coverage to low income people, older people, people with disabilities, and those with dependent children. Medicaid is funded on both a state and federal level, so the exact parameters of eligibility and coverage vary state by state. This is not to be mistaken with Medicare, which is a federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and some younger people with disabilities. Even with these options, it is unlikely for them to cover all cancer costs. Even for those who are fortunate enough to have primary costs covered by insurance, they will still have to pay for their own co-pays and coinsurance, deductibles, premiums, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

What Medical Expenses Can I Expect During and After Cancer Treatment?

The exact cost of direct medical expenses varies depending on treatment plans. Treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy all come with their own individualized prices, and you will typically have to pay for some combination of these options. This partially explains why studies have shown the cost of cancer treatment to be lower the earlier it is diagnosed, as they may not require as many treatments. One study found that for stage I and II breast cancer the price range was $61,621-$97,066, whereas for stage IV the average cost was between $89,463-$182,655.