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The Rising Costs of Breast Cancer Treatment

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis turns your life upside down. Fear and uncertainty dominate your days. You worry about whether you will survive, what types of treatments you will need to undergo and what will happen to your loved ones.

Unfortunately, far too many patients also have another source of concern: paying for breast cancer treatment. Rising healthcare costs are a fact in the U.S., and the price of cancer treatments has soared in recent years. Read on to learn more about breast cancer treatment cost trends and determine how you can get help paying cancer medical bills.

How Much Does Breast Cancer Treatment Cost the Country?

As of 2018, the estimated collective cost of breast cancer treatment in the United States was $19.7 billion. Only eight years before, the cost was estimated at roughly $16.5 billion.

What Is the Overall Average Cost of Breast Cancer Treatment?

The average cost of breast cancer treatment ranges from $15,000 to $50,000. Analyses show that breast cancer is the most expensive form of cancer to treat.

Why Does Breast Cancer Treatment Cost So Much?

One of the main reasons breast cancer treatment is so costly is that many new treatments have emerged for the disease in recent years. The treatments have significantly improved outcomes of breast cancer diagnoses. Today, an estimated 90 percent of people with invasive breast cancer live for five years, and 83 percent survive for at least ten years. For cancer situated only in the breast, the five-year survival rate is remarkably high at 99 percent. Because these treatments are new and so effective, they come with a high price tag.

Factors to Consider

It’s important to understand that while it is possible to provide an average cost of cancer treatment estimate, your individual expenses may be more or less. Some factors that can impact your costs include:

  • Geographic location
  • Insurance coverage
  • How advanced the cancer is
  • What type of cancer you have
  • What other health problems you have

Costs of Different Breast Cancer Treatment Methods

Another reason why breast cancer treatment costs vary dramatically is that there are many possible treatment methods available, and there are differences in the prices associated with these interventions. Here is a breakdown of the average cost of the most common treatments:

  • Mastectomy. There are five main kinds of mastectomies. Each one is a different type of procedure. Overall, the average cost for mastectomy surgery is $19,408.
  • Breast reconstruction. If you choose to undergo breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy, you can expect to pay an average of $5,000 to $15,000 per breast.
  • Chemotherapy. Depending on the number of sessions and the medications used, a round of chemotherapy can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000.
  • Medications. Breast cancer drugs may be used as a standalone treatment or alongside other treatments like chemotherapy. One of the most commonly prescribed drugs is Herceptin. The average total cost for taking this drug during cancer treatment is $160,000.

Other Breast Cancer Treatment Costs to Consider

In addition to the costs of the treatments themselves, you will likely have other expenses to cover during breast cancer treatment, such as:

  • Transportation costs, which may include gas, parking fees, taxi or ride-sharing fares, or public transportation fees
  • Copays as specified by your health insurance policy
  • Childcare to look after your kids while you undergo surgery
  • Housekeeping if you are unable to cook your meals, do laundry and perform other household tasks
  • Lost wages for you and other family members if you are forced to take unpaid leave from your job
  • New clothing that flatters your body after a mastectomy with or without reconstruction
  • Wigs and cosmetics to help you feel and look your best during and after treatment

Paying for Breast Cancer Treatment

Most people don’t have the savings to cover the cost of breast cancer treatment. Fortunately, there are ways to get help, such as:

  • Fundraising. Family and friends can hold events and donation drives in your area to help raise money to cover the cost of your treatment.
  • Crowdfunding. Many patients launch websites to collect donations online from people you know and strangers who want to help people who are fighting breast cancer.
  • Financing. Traditional loans and other types of financing may be available to cover all or some of your treatment expenses.
  • Prescription Programs. These programs can provide discounts on medications commonly taken during cancer treatment.
  • Foundations and Charities. Some nonprofits offer various types of financial support to all cancer patients or those with breast cancer specifically.