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The Cost Of Breast Cancer & What To Expect


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A breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating news to receive for anyone, no matter their age, financial status, or even gender.

Both men and women can be diagnosed with breast cancer, though it’s much more likely for a woman to develop cancer than it is men.

It’s estimated that the lifetime chance of a man getting breast cancer is 1 in 1,000, while for women the risk jumps up to 1 in 8.

Battling breast cancer can look a lot of different ways depending on when it’s detected and how far along it has progressed.

Experts say about 90% of patients go into years of remission when breast cancer is detected at the early stages.

Before we get into the costs, note that the cost of each person’s diagnosis, treatment and aftercare will differ depending on:

The type of breast cancer

  • What stage the cancer is at – Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4
  • Many other factors, such as general health and how the patient responds to treatment.

Diagnosis and Pre-Screening For Breast Cancer Costs

The Initial screening for breast cancer will start with a general consultation which can cost up to R690 on average and a consultation with a specialist can cost up to R2500

If your doctor finds something that they feel could be cancer, they would send you for a few more tests this could include an examination, mammogram, ultrasound, scans, biopsy, and genetic testing to determine what kind of cancer you have so the right treatment plan can be followed.

Approximate costs are:

  • Mammogram – R1 800
  • Ultrasound – R1 400
  • MRI scans and CT scans – R3 000 – R15 000
  • Stereotactic biopsy – R6 000 to R14 000
  • Oncotype DX (one type of genetic testing) – R30 000

Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatment Costs for Breast Cancer

Surgical costs come with a range of items and people; including the anesthetists’ and surgeons’ fees, hospital costs such as bed fees, needles, drips and more

Here are some of the approximate costs:

Lumpectomy – R30 000
Mastectomy of both breasts with reconstruction – R150 000 – R250 000 – The cost depends on the complexity of the reconstruction and whether the patient also has nipple and areola reconstruction.

Non-surgical treatment is done on an out-patient basis (out of hospital), so while there won’t be hospital costs there will nursing fees and the cost of the consumables and drugs.

  • Hormone treatments (eg Tamoxifen) can average R100 a month.
  • Monoclonal antibodies (eg Herceptin) can cost around R20 000 a month
    A session of radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy could cost from a few thousand to over R10 000

Post Surgery and After Care Costs for Breast Cancer

  • Hormonal therapy may be prescribed for a period of five to ten years and will cost on average between R650 and R2 500 per month.
  • Conventional chemotherapy will cost on average around R25 000 for four treatment cycles to over R140 000 for six cycles of therapy.
  • Radiation therapy on average costs between R51 000 and R112 000 for between five and six weeks of treatment, depending on the complexity of the condition as well as the type of radiotherapy administered.
  • Biological therapies such as Herceptin may cost more than R500 000 for a year of therapy. These drugs are used to treat rare conditions and cancer subtypes which come at a much higher cost than conventional drugs.

When it comes to a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s up to each individual to determine their ability and desire to pay the costs that are associated with it. Especially when you are looking at paying an average of R1.2 Million from diagnosis, to your treatment and 6 months of aftercare.

Although cancer is a prescribed minimum benefit (PMB) for medical aid schemes, there’s often a sizable shortfall, which is where gap cover may play an important role. However, according to legislation, gap cover is capped at an overall annual limit of R157,000 per person. Although severe illness cover pays per health event and not per treatment it can help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Work with your doctors to find out what course of treatment might be right for you, and remember, your own life is priceless.

For more information on how best to support a loved one with cancer, read the full support guide. To find out more about cancer and support, contact CANSA. For more information on severe illness cover, visit www.sanlam.co.za.

 

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