The first year of cancer treatment can cost anywhere from an average $5,000 for a melanoma to more than $100,000 for brain cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Treatment may, of course, run for many more years. For patients without insurance, the medical bills can turn the path to a cure into a dead end -- but there are groups that may be able to help you find a way out.
If paying for drugs is an issue, check with the company that makes the medicine you need. Some pharmaceutical companies offer help with insurance reimbursement or provide referrals to co-pay relief programs. If you have no insurance or need more help, some drug companies will discount or even donate their drugs free. Look up "patient assistant programs" on the company website or contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which keeps track of different corporate programs and other resources.
Medicare helps pay for medical care for anyone who's 65 or older. It also pays some of the bills for permanently disabled children who've been getting Social Security benefits for two years or more. Medicaid is a separate program that helps pay for qualifying individuals, regardless of age. The exact qualifications vary from state to state, but they usually include your income, your family size and special cases -- if you're blind, for instance, or permanently disabled.
Organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society offer various programs to help patients cope with financial and other aspects of cancer or types of cancer. Many groups that offer help operate at a smaller, local level. Talk to your doctor or flip through the phone book to find free clinics, local financial-aid programs or other local organizations that may be able to help.
If the potential expense of curing your cancer scares you, talk to your doctor about your options. Ask how much your treatment will cost, and about the price of specific treatments, tests and office visits. Ask if there are cheaper alternatives and cheaper drugs than the ones he recommends. It may be the cost is something you can pay from your health savings account or by asking family and friends for a loan. If not, at least you'll have an idea of the shortfall you need to make up.
- National Cancer Institute: Cancer Prevalance and Cost of Care Projections
- CancerCare: Sources of Financial Assistance
- American Cancer Society: Health Insurance and Financial Assistance for the Cancer Patient
- North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance: Who Is Eligible for Medicaid?
- BreastCancer.org: Paying for Treatment Without Insurance
- American Cancer Society: The Cost of Cancer Treatment
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.