Once you learn that you have prostate cancer you will be facing many decisions such as choosing your treatment, choosing a physician, and determining how you will pay for the unexpected costs of your care. The cost of cancer care can be high, and there may be extra expenses you hadn’t planned for during this time. The financial impact of a cancer diagnosis is often a major source of stress and anxiety for people with cancer and their families.
For many people, it is difficult to discuss the cost of cancer treatment with their health care team but it is an important aspect of your care, just like getting a proper diagnosis and planning for side effects. Bringing up the topic of cost can cause fear that your health care team may see you as a cost liability and delay treatment or offer a less effective treatment. These are common feelings felt by many people diagnosed with cancer. It is important to know that there are resources and support available to help with many costs associated with a cancer diagnosis.
Learn as much as you can about treatment costs, your insurance, and other treatment related expenses. You may find that you are not able to focus on managing this aspect of care. Family and friends always want to help, consider asking someone you trust to manage this aspect of care for you. In the video below, caregiver Liz Ostman speaks on the importance of managing costs in prostate cancer care.
Financial toxicity is a relatively new term in cancer care today. The phrase refers to the way out-of-pocket expenses can drain the wallets of cancer patients, poison quality of life, and in fact, become an adverse event of treatment. For some people, out-of-pocket expenses can be so burdensome that people chose to not fill prescriptions or follow their physician’s treatment recommendations. Unfortunately this can have negative effects on your health.
Potential Cancer Care Costs
Take some time to think about the possible types of costs that could add up from treatment. This can help you prepare a budget and determine what sort of support you might need. Your personal costs will depend on several factors, including the type of prostate cancer treatment you choose and your health insurance coverage.
Some costs might be more obvious than others. Medication costs based on insurance may be easier to determine depending upon your coverage. There are also other costs to consider. These are the costs of daily living that may be impacted while you are in treatment. If you expect treatment to be completed quickly, you will have different considerations than someone who is planning for long-term treatment for a period of years. Below are some costs to consider.
If you have a co-pay for each visit to the doctor and your visits to the doctor increase, so too will your co-payments. The amount of the co-pay is set by the insurance company, not the doctor or doctor’s office. Lab tests and radiology tests may require separate payment. If you find you cannot manage your frequent or costly appointment co-pays, ask your physician to waive the cost of some of your co-pays.
Treatments and Procedures
There may be costs for procedures and other treatments to fight your cancer. Certain treatments, like radiation therapy, require daily visits for a set time period. While you most likely will not have a co-pay for each visit, you may be responsible for a portion of the total cost with a fee such as co-insurance. If you are continuing to work through treatment, consider the time away from your job and the potential impact on your paycheck.
Many prostate cancer treatments can come with out-of-pocket co-payments. This is seen frequently with drugs that are taken by mouth, oral therapies, and provided by a specialty pharmacy. Fortunately there are many resources available that can help to offset these costs. Talk with your health care team so you can anticipate how the cost and how you will manage these new costs.
Added expenses like co-pays and out of pocket items begin to add up and this can impact the activities you normally do and your household. Consider how much your regular living expenses will be offset by the cost of prostate cancer treatment.
Transportation and Travel
Consider the expenses you have from traveling to and from the doctor’s office. Factor in the costs of gas and if applicable, parking. Depending on where you decide to receive treatment, you may also need to pay for lodging away from home.
Employment, Legal, and Financial Issues
These costs may arise if you needs professional guidance on employment, legal, or financial issues related to your prostate cancer diagnosis. This may involve addressing loss of wages, learning about employment rights under the law, figuring out medical expenses during income tax filing, or writing a will.
Caregiving, At-Home Care, and Long-Term Care
You may find that you extra help is needed to care for you while you are sick. Many times, a person is hired to fix meals, drive you to medical appointments, or assist with personal care. This could also include extended nursing care at a specialized facility.
Thinking about all of these potential costs may make you feel anxious about the future. However, local and national financial resources or a representative from your doctor’s office and/or health insurance provider may be able to help you better understand these costs.
ZERO360: Comprehensive Patient Support
ZERO360: Comprehensive Patient Support is a patient navigation program that ZERO provides in partnership with the Patient Advocate Foundation. ZERO360 connects patients with trained case managers who can help them find co-pay and other financial assistance to address medical debt and other costs incurred during treatment. Click here for more information on how to get assistance through this program and on the services the program provides.
Managing Costs of Prostate Cancer Care Webinar
ZERO and Joanna Morales, CEO of Triage Cancer, delivered an educational webinar discussing insurance and financial resources for men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Attendees left armed with information to use in discussions with their healthcare team and/or employer about managing the cost of prostate cancer treatment.