Managing the Costs of Early Breast Cancer Treatment

Although receiving treatment for breast cancer can be costly, there are proactive measures you can take to help keep the cost of care more affordable.

Breast cancer cannot be cured, however early identification increases treatment chances and gives hope.

However, even with insurance, breast cancer treatment is expensive. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer was the most expensive kind of cancer to treat in 2020.

Despite the significant cost obstacle, help and resources are accessible.

Here are several choices for managing the costs of treating breast cancer, along with an overview of the various expenditures involved.

Direct costs of treating breast cancer

The immediate costs associated with breast cancer treatment can mount up quickly.

The first thing to consider is the cost of diagnostic tests and procedures. Different tests may be used by your doctor to identify and diagnose breast cancer. These may consist of imaging examinations such as:
  • screening mammogram
  • MRI
  • diagnostic mammogram
  • ultrasound
The majority of health insurance companies pay for screening mammography in full, but additional imaging tests may not be covered. The typical out-of-pocket expenses for these consist of:
  • $1,084 for an MRI
  • $290 for a diagnostic mammogram
  • $250 for an ultrasound
Nevertheless, the majority of insurance providers offer in-network imaging facilities, which often have lower out-of-pocket costs than non-network alternatives.

In addition to imaging scans, a breast biopsy can be required. This entails taking a sample of breast tissue and testing it. A breast biopsy is usually covered by insurance companies, though you may have to pay copays and deductibles.

Treatment appointments also raise the expense. Among these are visits made for:
  • chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy
  • targeted therapies
  • radiation
  • hormonal therapy
The cost of scheduling meetings with other medical specialists is another factor. For instance, you might collaborate with a dietician to assist you manage your nutritional needs or a psychologist to offer mental health support. Though copays may apply, these visits are usually covered by many insurance policies.

Indirect costs of treating breast cancer

Beyond only immediate medical costs, breast cancer has a financial impact. During treatment, indirect expenses may also mount up.

The cost of getting to and from your appointments is one example. This takes into account the price of petrol, parking and public transit. These costs may mount up during treatment, depending on its duration.

You may also need to ask for time off from work to attend medical visits. More time off may result in lower income, which may have an impact on one's capacity to maintain financial stability.

Having a family can make you worry about child care. Arranging for your children's care during doctor visits may result in extra costs.

Additionally, you can require hiring assistance for regular duties and domestic responsibilities like:
  • grocery shopping
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • laundry
Additional indirect expenses consist of:
  • supplementary treatments, such as massage or acupuncture
  • items associated with hair loss, such as caps, scarves, and wigs
  • postsurgery bras
  • fertility-preserving treatments
When you're already coping with the psychological and physical effects of breast cancer, these additional expenses can cause a significant financial strain.

Higher costs for premiums, copays, and deductibles

During breast cancer treatment, rising insurance rates, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance may also become an issue.

You may have to make difficult decisions as medical costs climb, such as maybe postponing or forgoing certain treatments because of financial limitations.

The financial strain brought on by out-of-pocket spending may also affect mental health. During breast cancer treatment, it could increase anxiety or make emotions of uncertainty worse. This may exacerbate the psychological effects of your diagnosis.

In addition to having an impact on your relationships, higher healthcare bills might also make you feel more alone in society. Also, the stress of financial worries can lower your quality of life overall and interfere with your ability to sleep.

For this reason, it's critical to your physical, emotional, and mental health to discover solutions to reduce the financial strain associated with breast cancer treatment.

Resources to control the expense of Breast cancer treatment

The following advice can help you control the expense of breast cancer treatment:

1. Understand your health insurance coverage

To determine your precise benefits, start by reviewing your insurance policy.

Examining the specifics of your coverage, such as your out-of-pocket obligation, may involve the following:
  • deductibles
  • coinsurance
  • copays
After becoming acquainted with the specialists covered by your plan, stick to your network. This can lower what you have to pay out of pocket.

2. Compare prices to choose the best health insurance plan.

Examine several health insurance options to see which best fits your requirements and financial situation.

Compare prices for:
  • premiums
  • deductibles
  • coverage
During open enrollment, you may be able to switch plans, which can result in cost savings. However, don't always select the plan with the lowest cost.

Remember that although monthly premiums for plans with larger deductibles may be lower, you will typically have to spend more out of pocket before your provider will cover a claim.

3. Research patient assistance programs

Patient assistance is provided by numerous pharmaceutical firms and programmes to assist in defraying the cost of prescription medications.

Consult your physician about any programmes that provide free or reduced-cost drugs or financial aid. Among the programmes are a few of them:
  • The Assistance Fund: Copay Assistance Programme for Breast Cancer
  • NeedyMeds.com
  • The Komen Financial Assistance Programme
  • Foundation of the Patient Access Network
  • GoodRx

4. Consult with a financial counsellor from your rehab facility.

The majority of breast cancer treatment facilities offer specialised financial navigators or counsellors to help you with the cost of care. They can assist you:
  • understand treatment costs
  • explore financial assistance programs
  • decipher your health insurance coverage
At a treatment facility, contacting the administration or main office is the first step towards locating a financial navigator. You can also request help from a patient services representative or your healthcare provider.

To speak with a financial navigator, you can also visit the centre's website or give them a call.

5. Negotiate medical bills and payment plans

Negotiate without holding back if your medical bills are excessive. A lot of medical providers are willing to talk about lower rates or payment options. You can also find out if you qualify for any programmes that assist in paying for the care of people who are financially in need.

Discuss your financial status honestly with others and look into ways to reduce the cost of breast cancer treatment.

6. Participate in a clinical trial

In case you're seeking novel remedies while trying to reduce expenses, you may consider participating in a clinical trial. First, find out from your doctor whether they are aware of any open-enrollment studies that would be a good fit for you.

To find out about forthcoming trials, you can also inquire directly with nearby hospitals and research facilities or use internet tools like ClinicalTrials.gov.

Taking part in a research trial advances the choices for treating breast cancer. You can also benefit from it by getting free access to cutting-edge therapies.

The takeaway

Treatment for breast cancer can be costly, but you can control expenses by taking preventative measures. Investigate patient support programmes and familiarise yourself with your insurance policy first. Consider participating in a clinical experiment as well.

You may also remain on top of things by being transparent with your healthcare team, relying on your support network, and keeping up with the services that are available to you.

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