Soaring costs of cancer care

Medicare International has uncovered what it costs for an average cancer patient in Western Europe. With the proliferation of new expensive cancer treatments on the market, coupled with government being unable to fund the specific needs of each patient on a case-by-case basis, costs are becoming prohibitive without the correct insurance. 

Take breast cancer. Western society has the highest rate of the disease, where, according to the World Health Organisation, one in 16 women in Western Europe will be affected by breast cancer. In the UK, nearly 46,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and more than 1,000 women die of the disease each month.

With such a huge rise in the number of women who are now treated for this disease, comes with it a huge rise in costs. Thankfully the sophisticated drugs now available are helping more and more women to beat breast cancer. Figures produced by Cancer Research in the UK suggest survival rates for breast cancer have been improving for more than 20 years. The estimated five-year survival rate for women diagnosed in England and Wales in 2001-2003 was 80%, compared with only 52% for women diagnosed in 1971-1975. Some drugs or combinations are more suited than others and finding the right balance can be an expensive business that may not necessarily provide a cure, but it can make life more comfortable. For national healthcare organisations and individuals to absorb these costs has become very difficult.

Typically, in the UK, an initial consultation costs on average £180, with a mammogram at around £100. Additional diagnosis in relation to breast cancer care, including blood count and liver function totals just under £400. Should surgery be needed, the costs begin to increase significantly. A lumpectomy costs approximately £2,500, rising to £6,000 for a full mastectomy. On top of this, the patient needs nursing and accommodation, which costs around £500 per day.

Without taking into consideration the costs of drugs used to relieve the symptoms of breast cancer post-op, either chemotherapy or radiotherapy will be needed as part of the treatment. The costs are considerable, with an average of six chemotherapy sessions needed at a cost of up to £4,000 per session. Radiotherapy costs on average £900 per session.

David Pryor of MediCare International says: “Healthcare costs relating to cancer diagnosis and treatment are becoming prohibitively expensive, and drugs are often being denied to patients being treated by their national healthcare scheme, because they are simply unable to afford the costs. We see this in the UK, but also in many countries around the world that are popular expatriate destinations, whether for work or retirement. With all the costs involved in treating cancer, it is vital that individuals get the protection they need. Breast cancer is an example of a potentially fatal disease which is being treated successfully now in most cases, due to early detection. However, it is still prevalent and on the increase throughout the world, and more particularly in the West. It pays to protect yourself, so you can focus on getting better rather than worrying about what may be being denied to you.”

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