Chemotherapy is treatment of cancer with one or more drugs that kill cancer cells or interfere with their reproduction. Side effects can include anemia, fatigue, infection, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, pain and memory problems.
- For patients covered by health insurance, out-of-pocket costs for chemotherapy typically consist of doctor visit, lab and prescription drug copays or coinsurance of 10%-50%, depending on the plan and whether the chemotherapy is in pill form or administered by IV or other method. In general, chemotherapy is covered by health insurance. However, certain chemotherapy drugs might not be covered by some insurance plans. The American Cancer Society has information [1 ] on health insurance and chemotherapy.
- For patients not covered by health insurance, chemotherapy costs typically include the doctor fee, drug administration fee, drug cost and possibly facility fee, depending on how it is administered. Total cost depends on the type of cancer, the individual case, drug regimen used, method of administration and length of time prescribed or number of treatments required. The total cost is about $10,000-$200,000 or more. For example, to administer chemotherapy to a patient, Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center [2 ] in Nebraska charges about $270 for an intramuscular or subcutaneous injection. They charge about $290 for chemotherapy IV push — a quick way of administering a drug through an IV — and $290 for each additional drug. Expect to pay $650, not including doctor fee or drug fee, for one hour of chemotherapy IV infusion, and about an additional $160 for each additional hour of treatment, with the same drug or another drug. They charge about $780 for chemotherapy administration into the central nervous system, including a spinal puncture.
- The price of chemotherapy drugs varies widely, depending on the drug. For example, according to research [3 ] from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, one course of a drug for chemotherapy for breast cancer can cost about $900-$15,000, depending on the drug(s); and, if growth factor support is added to lessen side effects, that increases costs from more than $4,000 to more than $30,000. According to an article [4 ] in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, combination chemotherapy regimens typically used for advanced colorectal cancer can range from almost $12,000 to over $30,000 for an eight-week course, depending on the drugs. But new drugs usually cost more: for example, Adcetris [5 ]. a recently approved drug that treats recurrences of some types of lymphoma, can cost more than $120,000 for a course of treatment, and so does Yervoy [6 ]. a new skin cancer drug.
- Medical care required for serious chemotherapy side effects such as anemia, infections and white blood cell problems can add substantially to the total cost. For example, according to information [7 ] from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, each type of complication cost about $2,000-$4,000 per month in one group of patients studied.
Related articles: Radiation Therapy. Breast Cancer Treatment. Brain Tumor Treatment. Health Insurance
What should be included:
- Chemotherapy is given in different ways, depending on the drug and the specific case. It can be taken orally, given by IV or injected under the skin, directly into an artery, directly into the tumor or it can be infused into a body cavity around the tumor. The American Cancer Society offers a guide [8 ] to the ways chemotherapy can be administered.
- A doctor typically chooses chemotherapy drugs based on evidence from clinical trials. The American Cancer Society offers information on the most common chemotherapy drugs and protocols used for: breast cancer [9 ]. colorectal cancer [10 ]. prostate cancer [11 ]. non-small-cell lung cancer [12 ]. melanoma [13 ]. and bladder cancer [14 ] .
- The American Cancer Society offers an overview [15 ] of the types of chemotherapy drugs and how they work.
- Cancer patients will need regular follow-up visits and, in some cases, tests to check for recurrence. According to information [16 ] from the National Cancer Institute, patients generally need to visit a doctor every three to four months for the first two or three years, then every six months to a year. health.costhelper.com/blood-test.html>Blood tests. health.costhelper.com/mri.html>MRIs or CT scans or endoscopy might also be required. Follow-up visits can cost from under $200 to $400 or more.
- Many hospitals give discounts of up to 30% or more to uninsured/cash-paying patients. For example, Washington Hospital Healthcare System [17 ] in California offers a 35% discount.
Shopping for chemotherapy:
- The American Society of Clinical Oncology offers an oncologist locator [18 ] with the option to search for a medical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in chemotherapy.
Material on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult your physician or pharmacist regarding medications or medical procedures.