Cancer's growing burden: the high cost of care

The battle is not just about finding cures and better treatments

By Marilynn Marchione

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Feb. 26 2012 12:08 a.m. MST

Cost can still be a concern long after initial treatment. Many breast cancer patients take medicines for five years to prevent a recurrence. Tyree, the woman from Virginia, is about to start on one of these, Arimidex. It is newer and somewhat more effective than tamoxifen, a medicine long used to prevent cancer's return, but it is also more expensive.

If insurance covers only part of it, "I'll have to pay," Tyree said. "And I don't have any idea how much it is."

Advice on dealing with cancer costs

Ask your doctor how much a treatment will cost and whether there are more affordable alternatives. If the recommended treatment is expensive, ask how much better a survival advantage it offers.

Find out what insurance will and will not cover before agreeing to a treatment. If it's near the end of a year, see if moving up or slightly delaying a treatment makes a big difference in your co-payments or deductible.

Consider joining a clinical trial that might help pay for your care.

Check out programs at hospitals, drug companies and foundations that aid uninsured or underinsured patients.

Ask if your doctors have a financial stake in the treatments they are recommending.

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