Boston, Massachusetts - Excellent advances in cancer treatment, including new chemotherapy drugs and novel forms of radiation, are saving lives left and right, but the experts say that the “price of success” means patients and their families must dole more out of their own pockets in order to get healthy.
An article by the Associated Press notes that, these days, new cancer drugs often cost as much as $100,000 a year, sometimes more. Because of scientific advances that allow for earlier diagnosis of various types of cancer, patients are given these expensive drugs at an earlier stage and staying on them longer, sometimes for the rest of their life. This means the cost of treatment is higher. In addition, drug combinations that are devised to specifically treat a certain individual – guided by genetic testing – are costing more as well.
The result? More and more cancer victims who are finding it necessary to declare bankruptcy because the cost of treat has obliterated them financially, experts say.
"Patients have to pay more for their premiums, more for their co-payments, more for their deductibles. It's become harder to afford what we have, and what we have is becoming not only more costly but also complex," said Dr. Michael Hassett, a cancer specialist and policy researcher at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
For example, proton therapy – a high-tech form of radiation that has, in some cases, proven more effective than the traditional variety – costs twice as much. “Each leap in technology has brought a quantum leap in expense,” the article explains.
It’s expensive to treat many different chronic diseases, but in the U.S. cancer has the highest treatment price per person, figures show, and that means picking and choosing for some patients. Sadly, a survey completed by the American Cancer Society found that one-fourth of all U.S. cancer patients put off receiving a test or treatment because of the exorbitant cost. For some, those missed tests or treatments represent a matter of life or death. In addition, the same survey found that at least one out of five survey respondents over the age of 65 reported using all or most of their savings on their cancer care.
The hardest hit, explains the Associated Press article, is the middle class. They don’t qualify for low income programs that help supplement the cost of treatment nor can they afford to simply pay out of pocket. A survey of 250 middle class patients showed that almost all had insurance and many had prescription drug plans but, nonetheless, the average output from their own pockets was $712 per month.
Furthermore, many said they had to skimp on groceries and clothes in order to afford their care. Others borrowed or use large amounts of credit. Many simply didn’t fill prescriptions, filled only half, or took less than the amount prescribed for them.
Patients with cancers like mesothelioma – frequently caused by unnecessary exposure to asbestos on-the-job – are often faced with daunting medical bills for their care. Many turn to lawsuits in hopes of gaining compensation from the companies or individuals responsible for their exposure, seeking a way to relieve at least a portion of their financial burden.