Why do cancer patients need financial help?


Cancer does not only cost us our health and well-being but also our savings. Cancer treatment is extremely expensive, and if a person does not have extra insurance such as NHS Cancer Cover Plus, he or she will have to pay for private treatment out of pocket.

Aside from treatment, there are also many indirect cancer costs, such as:

  • extra medication (such as painkillers)
  • travel costs
  • costs of living if a person requires help (from a nurse or caretaker)
  • money lost when having to miss work.

Cancer treatment costs

NHS waiting lists can be very long. Currently, the target waiting time between a GP’s or dentist’s referral and the first treatment is 62 days. When referred by a specialist, the target time is 31 days, according to data put out by the Christie NHS Foundation Trust[1]. If someone wants to get treated faster than this, they will have to opt for self-pay, which can cost up to £30,000 for a single round of chemotherapy.

Breast cancer assessments and treatments (mastectomy and reconstruction) could also cost up to £30,000 if paid for out of pocket. Just a single consultation in the UK costs £275, which is 22% of a minimum wage workers monthly payment. All prices are based on the HCA Healthcare Fixed Price list which can be found here.

What is also important to note, is that the initial phase of cancer (first 6 months) is usually the most expensive and that the older the patient is, the more they tend to spend.

Indirect day-to-day life cancer costs

There is also the issue of indirect, hidden cancer costs. One of the main concerns here is
day-to-day living. Because cancer tends to be a very tiring illness, it makes those suffering from it spend more time at home, thus raising the cost of things such as energy bills, television, books, and internet. The cost of food and drink also tends to go up, as patients often need to go on special diets and start to eat healthier, more expensive things.

A survey done by Macmillan[2] found that one in five patients were affected by OTC medication costs (an average of £8 a month), and one in four could not keep their homes warm in the winter because of the costs.

Clothing, equipment and home modifications are issues many people may omit when thinking about indirect cancer costs. However, according to the Macmillan study, over 37% of patients incurred costs relating to these things paying an average of £70 a month.

Due to extensive hair loss, many people decide to invest in wigs to cover up the results of chemotherapy. However, a real hair wig can cost up to £215!

Weight loss is a very common side effect of cancer. It is often so severe that patients have to get a whole new wardrobe, which in turn will cost them a lot of money.

As you can probably tell, cancer is a very expensive disease, and in order for patients to fight it successfully and quickly, they need enormous amounts of money, which most people, unfortunately, do not have. Some form of financial aid is therefore crucial for many of them.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the costs of cancer, see how we can help you!

Author: Julia Kubiak

[1] www.christie.nhs.uk/about-us/our-standards/cancer-waiting-times/
[2] www.macmillan.org.uk/_images/Cancers-Hidden-Price-Tag-report-England_tcm9-270862.pdf