Money talk: The cost of cancer care

How to manage your cancer costs

cost of cancer careLet’s face it – talking about money can be a challenge for most of us even during the best of times. When there is a diagnosis of cancer (and cancer is a costly illness), worrying about money and how to manage the cost of cancer care can take a toll on your emotions, family, health and time.

A study done with nearly 300 patients treated at Duke Health clinics in North Carolina revealed that although most people want to ask their doctor about costs associated with treatment, most don’t feel comfortable bringing it up. Many patients are afraid that talking about money may change the quality of their care. Others feel unsure what to ask, and/or embarrassed to reveal that there is financial need.

Here are some tips for facing the money issue so you can get the answers you need:

Start a Conversation About Finances:

Knowing what questions to ask  the doctor is important; here are several examples to help you get started:

  • “I’m worried about all of the costs related to my cancer care. If I can’t afford this treatment, are there other treatments that are less expensive?”
  • “Do you have a financial counselor and/or insurance person in your office that can give me an idea of the total cost of my cancer treatment?”
  • “Can you refer me to a social worker who can help me find resources and support services?”

Make a Financial Plan

Knowing as much as you can before you start cancer treatment will help you know what to expect. This can help you deal with costs as they happen.

  • Estimate expenses: figure out costs for medications, transportation and other things like special needs (wig, specific foods, etc.)
  • Estimate your income, and then use a budget worksheet to help plan your monthly expenses.
  • If you have health insurance, learn all you can about your policy by contacting the insurance company directly. Find out what your plan covers, and if your policy has any limits, restrictions, or co-pays.

Find Resources:

For people without health insurance and those who need financial assistance to cover health care costs related to cancer, resources are available, including government-sponsored programs and services supported by volunteer groups

  • Talk to those who can help. Setting up a meeting with a medical social worker, trusted financial planner, and/or billing counselor can help you discover available resources to help you with the cost of treatment.
  • Contact government agencies, organizations, and programs designed to provide assistance for cancer patients and their families. Because, resources provided by individual groups may vary, check with each group to determine if financial aid is available.
  • Visit these U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center pages to learn more about financial assistance and practical matters.

If you or someone you care about have questions or are worried about how to pay for cancer care, don’t be shy. Talking to the doctor and asking for assistance can help ease anxiety, and lighten the load of financial stress.

Cancer AnswerLine™ is a dedicated phone line at the Comprehensive Cancer Center that is staffed by oncology nurses five days a week, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 800-865-1125. They have a combined 105 years of experience helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer.



CCC 25 years button150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.