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The high cost of lung cancer treatment: facts to know

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on May 28th, 2020

A diagnosis of lung cancer can be devastating in everyone's life. Costs of lung cancer treatment starting from imaging and scans can soon overwhelm the patients as well as their families. However, individuals diagnosed with lung cancer after prolonged exposure to a hazardous agent have the right to claim financial compensation.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths throughout the world and is the most common occupation-related cancer. Being diagnosed with lung cancer can not only affect your physical and mental health but may also take a tremendous toll of your financial commitments. As per the AARP The Magazine, the total costs of cancer treatment can average up to $150,000, but it can be higher because containing and killing the cancer cells that divide and spread abnormally without affecting the nearby normal cells requires a wide range of treatment, which includes complicated surgery, lengthy radiation therapy, and chemotherapy for an extended period. Several factors are considered when determining the cost and quality, which include:

  • Inpatient admissions
  • Emergency room visits
  • Provider Office visits for treatment
  • Pharmacy drug costs (chemotherapy, prescription, procedure-related)
  • Laboratory tests and pathology services
  • Radiology services (imaging and radiation treatment)
  • Surgery costs
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Home care (equipment, visits of specially trained nurses)
  • Specialty referrals (physical therapy)
  • Transportation for treatment

According to an analysis, the drug costs for lung cancer accounted for about 20% of total costs after the diagnosis and other cancer care services such as hospital inpatient admission, facility services accounted for 80% of the total costs. The report also shows significant use of inpatient hospital stays during the early months of diagnosis.

Avoiding financial disaster is essential but can make the battle against lung cancer stressful

The costs of life-saving treatments continue to raise as cancer survival rates increase, and almost $150 billion is spent nationwide for cancer care per year. This is nearly four times the treatment cost for other common health issues, as per the report of The Mesothelioma Center. The drug costs per month for cancer treatment may be as high as $100,000. With the staggering costs associated with direct cancer care, the patients and their families try arranging funds and avoiding financial disaster. But, at the same time, the higher cost of lung cancer treatments can add distress, hardships, and burden. The hidden costs of lung cancer treatment in the form of travel expenses is serious hardship and additional financial burden for nearly half of the cancer patients. Numerous studies have shown that unaffordable medical costs can impact the patient's health as much as the effects of cancer therapy, and researchers have termed it as 'financial toxicity'.

Workplace toxic-exposure related lung cancer has a long latency period, which means that workers start developing the symptoms of lung cancer decades after they were initially exposed to hazardous agents. As a result, workers after retiring from their jobs will have to pay high treatment costs, which ranges from $55,548 to $798,181 during the initial six months (study published in Cancer Medicine, January 2019) out-of-pocket.

Estimated cost of lung cancer care

The estimated lifetime cost of lung cancer treatment and other health care expenses was estimated to be up to $282,000. Lung cancer can be treated through three primary approaches including surgery, radiation, and drug therapy (chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy). A few patients may need all three treatment modalities, while others receive one or two types. As a result, the costs you need to bear may vary, and depends on the factors such as:

  • Type as well the extent of the treatment you receive
  • Frequency of treatment
  • Costs related to the cancer center

Although it is impossible to be accurate, here are the average costs of different approaches of lung cancer treatment:

  • Surgery: $15,000
  • Chemotherapy: $9,360
  • Radiation therapy: $9,000

Post-operative care is also costly as it includes dealing with complications, cost of scans, follow-up treatment such as chemotherapy, and home care.

Financial hardships resulting from high costs of cancer care

According to the data from the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research, 2016, patients suffering from cancer are 2.5 times more likely to declare bankruptcy as compared to healthy people. Here are examples of financially difficult situations that were experienced by patients with cancer in the order of severity:

  • Inability to pay bills
  • Struggle to buy sufficient food
  • Avoiding doctor follow-up visits
  • Missing the dose of prescription drugs
  • Avoiding recommended treatments
  • Declaration of bankruptcy

Thus, high costs of cancer treatment often clash with proper care and as per research, an estimated 2 million cancer survivors gave up one or more essential medical services because of the cost. Some patients decide on taking less medicine than advised, fill their prescriptions partially, or even do not fill at all, and skip treatment procedures or tests recommended by their doctor just to make ends meet. Financial hardships due to expensive cancer care may lead to a lack of adequate food, shelter, and other utilities jeopardizing the health of cancer patients.

Filing a legal claim can help pay for your asbestos-related lung cancer care

Most of the time, lung cancer cases are work-related and trace back to asbestos exposure on the job due to the negligence of their employers. It is certainly unfair for them to bear the burden of paying for their cancer treatment. Therefore, filing a legal claim for compensation can help them pay for lung cancer treatment and other expenses such as a mortgage for a house, which could ensure peace of mind for the victim and their loved ones.

If you served in the US military and developed lung cancer as a result of military asbestos exposure, you may file a claim to receive VA disability benefits and compensation from the asbestos trust funds. Veterans are also eligible to avail their treatment for lung cancer through the VA medical system.

It is important to seek help from an experienced asbestos lawyer who can evaluate your case and explain to you the options available for filing a claim.