Healthy Living

Four key costs in cancer treatment

Doctors’ fees, treatment procedures, cost of drugs, transport and living expenses are key considerations in cancer treatment

Four key costs in cancer treatment

Doctors’ fees, treatment procedures, cost of drugs, transport and living expenses are key considerations in cancer treatment

As I walked into the compound to meet Joan*, fear and despair hang in the air. Nine-year-old Joan had been diagnosed with leukemia. The mother looked at me and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she told me, “I feel that my world has come to an end.” I couldn’t help, I felt desperate too. My mind quickly ran through the available cancer treatment facilities in Kenya. I listed the few that I knew. Soon, I found myself battling with the costs dilemma that each and every family agonises with when faced with such cases.

I picked a phone, a calculator, a paper and a pen. I then listed all facilities that are well equipped to handle cancer cases. On one end, I wrote the name of the hospital, and on the other, the charges on each and every procedure in cancer treatment. I began one of the most draining assignments in the search for a treatment facility.
At the end of the day, I was tired, depressed and worn out. I was tired, not because of calling too many people and recording their responses, but because after all that work, my effort did not bear much fruit. All the costs were way beyond the reach of Joan mother, her family and friends.
All my life, I never thought I would ever participate in advising people to take a patient overseas for treatment. “Why not utilize the local expertise and grow our economy?” I always asked when people told me about affordable treatment abroad. But here I was, face to face with a dilemma whose answers seemed hidden thousands of miles away.
Step by step, I delved into the subject of scouting for a cancer treatment facility. What are some of the key considerations when carrying out this exercise?
In June 2015, Cancer.Net Editorial Board developed a few guidelines that are key while scouting for a facility and understanding the costs related to cancer care.
In the initial steps, ask yourself these critical questions:

  1. What type of cancer am I suffering from? This will help you identify the type of treatment that you are seeking.
  2. Based on my type of cancer, for how long will I need treatment?
  3. Where will I be treated? Is it locally, in my country or overseas?
  4. Do I have health insurance cover? What are the limits like? Do I have supplement insurance?
  5. Are people in my network willing and able to assist? To what extent can they assist?

Medical treatment costs
In cancer treatment, there are direct costs of medication as well as hidden costs. It is important that a patient does all these calculations in advance. Daily living costs are also key, especially where the illness will be longterm. A good example is the cost of occasional travel for radiation therapy. Additionally, demands of the treatment schedule could imply that you work less, and as a result earn less.

Here are all the costs broken down:

Doctor appointments
Every patient must have a discussion with a doctor before treatment commences. Treatment schedules, physical examination, check-up and reviews among other medical procedures are either done or directed by doctors.

Depending on your insurer, you may be required to co-pay each time you visit a doctor. Some insurance packages require that the patient pays for each laboratory test, such as a blood or urine test, done as part of your appointment.

Treatment procedures
Cancer can be diagnosed at any stage and depending on your body’s response, treatment can take anywhere from a few days to a few months or even years. In addition to medical costs, other charges may include payments for each radiation therapy session. If you are participating in a clinial trial, there may be other cost-related factors to consider.

Cost of drugs
Medication can be wide, spanning from payments for specific drugs prescribed during your treatment period, such as chemotherapy to drugs that are meant to help manage side effects.

Transport and living expenses
Other expenses include transportation and travel, family and living expenses, caregiving, at-home care, and long-term care.
When a family thinks about all these costs, depression sets in. It is prudent that
If you continue feeling overwhelmed about your financial future, ask for help from a trusted family member, friend, social worker, or another member of the health care team.