Planning for Cancer: Being Financially Prepared After a Cancer Diagnosis

GUEST POST by Scott Sanders •

Even if you have insurance, a cancer diagnosis is going to come with unexpected costs that it won’t cover. According to Forbes, more than one-third of people diagnosed with cancer end up paying more out-of-pocket for their treatments than they expected. These numbers do not cover other costs such as travel expenses and loss of wages.


According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, cancer drugs cost patients an average of $10,000 a month. Some therapies end up costing as much as $30,000 a month. In addition to the costs of health insurance premiums, cancer patients will pay 20 to 30 percent of those prices out of their own pockets. A year’s worth of drugs can end up costing $24,000 to $36,000.

Start with Organization

After they’ve received a diagnosis, many cancer patients find that organizing their monetary information gives them a sense of control. A desktop divider is a great organizational tool that can keep everything you need regarding your treatment and costs in one handy place. In your divider, you can keep things like notes you make during a doctor’s appointment, copies of lab results, all your insurance information, bills, and receipts for any and all health care costs.

While a desktop organizer is nice for keeping physical copies of things and information you’ll need, it’s also helpful if you have all the numbers organized and laid out in front of you. Start a spreadsheet where you can log all your expenses and unreimbursed medical costs. You can also have an additional tab where you create a budget that cuts down on excessive spending so you can save for out-of-pocket costs you might encounter.

Know What to Expect

Having an idea of all the things that go into cancer treatment can help prepare you for the costs. Every patient goes through their own particular treatment journey, but you can count on needing extra funds for provider visits, lab tests, copays for clinic visits, drug costs, and home care.

If the cancer is terminal, most of the care is about keeping the patient comfortable and mitigating symptoms for the remainder of their life. However, if you are choosing to fight cancer despite its terminal status, there are costs associated with radiation, surgery, and procedures.

Explore Helpful Resources

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you are immediately set up with a team to walk with you every step of the way. However, they aren’t the ones responsible for the cost. Insurance may cover some of it, but you’ll find that there are several outside resources that can help you cover the cost of cancer-related expenses. You can find financial assistance from government programs such as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services or the Social Security Administration, in addition, to help from cancer organizations such as CancerCare and the American Cancer Society.

Prescription costs are one of the largest expenses outside of treatment itself, but there are resources and co-pay relief programs to tap into here as well. Reach out to organizations such as the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), NeedyMeds, Inc., and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) for helpful information and guidance. Some grocery stores and drugstores offer discounts for generic versions of prescriptions as well, so talk with your doctor about taking advantage of the lower prices if possible.

Make an Estate Plan

Anytime a person is diagnosed with cancer, it is a good idea to draw out an estate plan to make sure that family is taken care of. This includes getting a life insurance plan if you don’t already have one. It will help cover any outstanding debts or estate taxes that your family will owe. When shopping for insurance, you can use an estimator tool online to figure out your policy rate.

You should also go over your existing will or draft one if you haven’t beforehand. A will is a legal document that dictates how you would like your possessions and assets to be distributed after you die. While drafting a will is unpleasant, it will ensure your wishes are met and can prevent conflict among your loved ones you leave behind.

The larger your estate, the more imperative it is that you enlist help from a lawyer to create your will. However, people with smaller estates can choose to do it themselves with the help of a software program or online company. When drafting a will, choose a trustworthy executor who will carry out your decisions for you.

On top of forming an estate plan, you should also select a person to make decisions on your behalf if you’re no longer able to do so. A power of attorney allows a loved one to make financial decisions for you, and a living will can address end-of-life care.

Most cancer patients have to pay for some of their treatment themselves even if they have insurance. Organization can cut down on a lot of financial stress. Simply having all the information you need in one place provides a sense of control. And while living within a budget in order to cover treatment costs may not sound fun, embracing a simpler life can actually make a person feel happier and more satisfied overall.