Financial Considerations

There are so many things to consider when diagnosed with breast cancer that it may seem overwhelming for a patient. For men and women who do not have health insurance, the cost of treatment will be significantly greater than for those that do have insurance. However, there will be unexpected out-of-pocket costs for both groups, requiring the development of a budget to cover all expenses.

Income and Lost Wages

Typically those who are self employed or do not have disability insurance will have the greatest decrease in income during treatment. In one study, breast cancer patients had an average decrease in yearly income by as much as 27%.1

The amount that your income decreases will be based on how much time you are away from work. Some employers will allow you to use sick days during treatment. Know what your company policy is regarding the use of sick time, comp time or flex time. It is essential to minimizing your lost wages and income during your treatment period.

Ongoing Expenses

During the treatment time, which for breast cancer patients is typically between six and eighteen months, there must be a plan in place to cover monthly expenses.2 These ongoing expenses are the monthly bills that you have to pay, regardless of your ability to earn an income. For most families this will include:

  • Mortgage or rental fees
  • Utility payments
  • Phone, television and internet
  • Car payments
  • Credit card payments
  • Student loans (if applicable)
  • Taxes
  • Daycare fees
  • Food and living expenses
  • Insurance premiums

It is important to have a plan for these basic expenses to be covered in order to prevent additional stress. For many families, a single income may not cover these basic expenses, especially if the primary wage earner is the individual that has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Additional Expenses

In addition to the ongoing expenses to maintain the family and home there are other expenses that need to be considered. These expenses are not all one-time expenses, such as co-pays for ongoing breast cancer treatments that may be required with several visits. Some individuals will require assistance with daily living activities after treatment. This may include hiring someone to help care for the children, complete basic housekeeping tasks or maintain the yard. Patients may also find that they need assistance with shopping, transportation and managing pets. These services may be performed by friends or family members when possible, but over longer periods of recovery this may not be a practical option.

Other additional expenses to consider can include the cost of medical equipment for the home if not covered by insurance or a health care program. Home health care services can provide qualified professionals to change dressings and provide in-home therapy. But not without costs that must be factored into your budget.

Estimating Costs

A study that evaluated costs of treating Stage 1 and 2 breast cancers found the cost to be estimated at $20,000 to $100,000. The factors that influenced cost the most were the type of surgery, length of hospital stay, type of postoperative treatment and stage of cancer.3

One of the most reliable resources for estimated costs of breast cancer treatment is a breast cancer survivor. Most communities have support groups that assist breast cancer patients in all aspects of emotional and practical support. Getting involved with these organizations will provide information about cost of various treatments based on the health care facilities and options available within your community.


1 Lauzier, S., Maunsell, E., Drolet, M., et al. (2008). Wage Losses in the Year After Breast Cancer: Extent and Determinants Among Canadian Women. Journal of The National Cancer Institute , 321-332.

2 Bradley, C. J., Neumark, D., et al. (2007). Employment and Cancer: Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Breast and Prostate Cancer Survivors. Cancer Investigation, 47-54.

3 Campbell, J. D., & Ramsey, S. D. (2009). The Costs of Treating Breast Cancer in the US: A Synthesis of Published Evidence . PharmacoEconomics , 199-209.

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.