The Cost of Cancer


The Cost of Cancer

The short version: it’s expensive. 

The slightly longer version: In one calendar year, from the initial mammogram through more tests, biopsies, two different rounds of chemo, a round of radiation, and a double mastectomy, $436,668.56 was billed to my insurance. To say I’m thankful for insurance coverage is an understatement. 

However, when examining the cost billed for some individual procedures, I can’t help but hang my mouth open at how “expensive” healthcare is in our country. Here are some examples taken straight from my insurance claims:

  • $1,000 for radiation (these appointments were never longer than 20 minutes)
  • $3,231 for one MRI (I think I had a total of 3 of these for the year)
  • $1,689.10 for one day of chemo
  • $2,729.30 for another day of chemo
  • $13,483.66 for the “red devil” of chemo day
  • $509 x3 for the appointment where we met with the team of 3 to hear the news of cancer and treatment plan
  • $102,338.77 for all the costs associated with the mastectomy

In addition to the cost of treatments and procedures, there is the cost of parking. That’s right. Over $200 for that for the year. 

Then how about all the time it takes to go through it all? I went through my calendar for last year and conservatively estimated the amount of time I spent at appointments and waiting for appointments: 156 hours. That’s 4 work weeks. And does NOT include the 2 weeks I was actually out of work after the mastectomy. 

6 weeks! And I wasn’t even really sick or out of commission during chemo treatments. Imagine the people who have a hard time with chemo…that’s extra time out of work or daily life. 

Then imagine someone who doesn’t have a job with the flexibility to take this time off work without a struggle. 

Then imagine someone who lives more than 15 minutes (like me) away from an amazing medical treatment center. At each chemo treatment, a nurse would ask if I was from around here. For a while, I assumed it was because she could pick up on my Midwestern accent. In reality, she was asking because many patients travel over an hour to come to treatment. That means an entire day off work for a few hours of treatment. 

I am so grateful for all the pieces of this cancer puzzle that worked out for me, the medical team I have, the fact that we live so close, the work environment that supported me and allowed me time to take care of myself, and the relative ease with which I experienced treatment. I know this is not the reality for everyone. 

Cancer sucks. It messes up your body. It takes time away from you. It makes you lose body parts. It makes you wonder if you’re really ‘ok’. The cost of cancer is high- in more ways than one.

About the Author:

Kelly Klehm is a breast cancer survivor who uses writing as a tool to share her experiences. She will be joining us monthly to share her journey with us. You can find more of her writing on Forge’s blog.