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The Average Cost for Cancer Chemotherapy Treatment

author image Ritwik Ghosh
Ritwik Ghosh is a cancer researcher dedicated to the study of molecular and genetic events leading to the development and progression of cancer. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Clinical Cancer Research, Cancer Research and Prostate. He graduated with a Master of Science and Ph.D. degree.
The Average Cost for Cancer Chemotherapy Treatment
Chemotherapy can involve more than one drug. Photo Credit look at that image by Keith Frith from Fotolia.com

The cost of cancer chemotherapy can vary widely depending on a number of factors. The high cost of chemotherapy can be prohibitive for many cancer patients. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of cancer patients younger than 65 delay or refuse treatment due to the high associated cost. However, resources are available to patients who need financial assistance.

Average Cost of Cancer Chemotherapy

The cost of eight weeks of chemotherapy can range from $100 to $30,000. Treatment with inexpensive drugs like 5-FU or leucovorin costs around $300 dollars for eight weeks. However, to improve therapeutic effect, these drugs are often used in combination with newer drugs which are typically more expensive. According to Johns Hopkins Health Alerts, addition of Avastin® or Erbitux® to 5-FU or leucovorin can push up the cost of the dosing regimen to as much as $30,000.

Factors Determining Cost of Cancer Chemotherapy

Cost of cancer chemotherapy depends on a lot of factors. Choice of drugs as well as frequency and duration of dosing regimen can affect the cost. Hospital charges add on to the cost of the drug. Hence, patients receiving the treatment on an out-patient basis pay less than those who have to be administered chemotherapy on an in-patient basis. Moreover, since hospital charges vary widely, location of the patient is also a contributing factor in determining the cost of chemotherapy.

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Increase in Cost of Cancer Chemotherapy

According to Cancer Bulletin of National Cancer Institute, the average cost of initial cancer therapy per patient increased by $4,000 to $7,000, depending on cancer type between 1991 and 2002. A larger number of patients receiving chemotherapy and the high average cost of chemotherapy are some of the most significant factors leading to increased cost of cancer treatment.

Factors Contributing to Increase in Cost of Chemotherapy

One of the factors leading to higher average cost of chemotherapy is the introduction of newer and better drugs, which are also extremely expensive. Also, a larger number of patients can now avail themselves of chemotherapy because of reimbursements by insurance companies.

How to pay for chemotherapy

According to American Cancer Society, Medicare Part B and most insurance companies reimburse at least a part of cost associated with chemotherapy. However, in recent times, insurance companies have rejected payments for some expensive chemotherapeutic drugs as part of cost-cutting measures. Hence, it is advisable to talk with your insurance provider to make sure that costs will be covered before accepting chemotherapy. Also, most pharmaceutical companies have programs to help patients who cannot pay for chemotherapy. In addition, hospitals and health care providers have access to resources which help patients who cannot afford the high cost of chemotherapy.

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