The Costs Of Lung Cancer – Diagnosis, Treatment, And Recovery

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally. In the USA, lung cancer kills about 152,000 per year¹. Many effective lung cancer treatments are available, however, and their costs will be lower if you have health insurance.

Even if you don't have health insurance, federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid can help with the costs associated with lung cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Treating lung cancer comes with various costs depending on the type of health insurance you carry, the type of cancer you have, and the treatments your oncologist(s) recommend.

Have you considered clinical trials for Lung cancer?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Lung cancer, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Understanding health insurance costs

Initially, most people use their health insurance to pay for lung cancer treatment.

If you have a health policy with a higher premium, you'll most likely pay less for healthcare in the long run, and the same applies to cancer treatments too.

Another factor that could lower costs is the type of policy, such as a health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO).

The following also affects how much you pay for health insurance when you receive a cancer diagnosis:

  • Premiums

  • Deductibles

  • Co-pays

  • Out-of-network expenses

Remember - an insurance company can’t deny you coverage for having pre-existing conditions like cancer or unfairly raise costs².

Premiums A premium is a monthly price you pay to keep policies in good standing. If you stop paying your premium, your coverage will be declined, and you'll have to pay for your cancer treatments out-of-pocket.

Deductibles A deductible is a price you pay before receiving medical care. If you don't cover your deductible, your insurance won't reimburse your healthcare provider for services.

Out-of-pocket expenses The definition of out-of-pocket expenses is straightforward. It's everything you have to pay that the insurance does not cover, including brand name prescriptions.

Co-pay A co-pay is the amount you are required to pay per doctor visit (not the total amount you have to pay to receive services, which is a deductible).

Out-of-network expenses HMOs and PPOs are healthcare networks, which means that the insurance company works with specific health services providers to "stay in-network." This keeps patient costs as low as possible without sacrificing the quality of care. The idea is to improve the quality of care by staying in-network.

These are the initial expenses you have to account for when you first get sick with lung cancer. Now we will review the costs associated with diagnosing and treating the disease.

Costs by stage

Treating lung cancer is a lengthy process, and paying for treatment is part of the process. Treating lung cancer typically costs more in the beginning than towards the final phases. The costs of treatment will depend on the type of lung cancer, and the type of treatment your oncologist(s) recommend.

The main costs to treat lung cancer depend on whether you are diagnosed with non-small-cell lung cancer or small-cell lung cancer, how far along the illness has progressed, and the specific stage you are in.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)³, the below costs can be a guide to the average treatment cost and the average patient cost by cancer type and stage:

A table with average costs for treating lung cancer at its various stages.

These costs are a guide only. Your actual costs may vary depending on your level of insurance cover. 

This table, adapted from the NIH publication, does not include costs related to immunotherapy or targeted therapy. These newer therapies are very commonly used in the treatment of lung cancer and can cost up to or over $15,000 per month. 

Hidden costs

In addition to the above costs, there are also other “hidden” costs that you may need to account for. For example, prescription medication for pain, treatment, and treatment side effects, travel costs to and from appointments, and at-home or long-term caregiving. 

Your costs will vary based on the type of insurance you have and what they cover (i.e., they may not cover certain specialists or hospitals). You may also need to factor in legal costs if you require advice setting up a power of attorney, or experience employment issues as a result of your condition.

Help reduce the costs

There are many ways you can reduce the costs associated with a lung cancer diagnosis. For example, many hospitals offer discounts of up to 30% to uninsured or cash-paying patients. Some states also have programs like the IMPACT Program that provides free or discounted treatment for eligible uninsured patients.  

You can also shop around for better rates and compare treatments costs. There are resources, such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology oncologist locator, which you can use to search for a skilled cancer specialist. The National Cancer Institute will also help you find NCI-designated cancer centers.

The lowdown

While there are several costs associated with a lung cancer diagnosis, these can vary depending on your diagnosis, treatment plan, insurance provider, and the cost-saving programs you access. It’s important to understand all the costs that you may face so you are financially prepared.

Have you considered clinical trials for Lung cancer?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Lung cancer, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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