Rising costs associated with cancer treatment


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Rising costs associated with cancer treatment

It is estimated that in 2010 cancer was responsible for the deaths of around 43,000 Australians, making it the leading cause of death in the country. It is expected that nationally, 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimei.

Due to improvements in cancer treatments, the survival rate for many cancers has increased by 30% over the last 20 yearsii. In 2006 the 5-year survival rate - a medical term used to describe the percentage of patients that are alive five years after initial diagnosis - for the most common cancer in Australian women was 88%iii (breast canceriv) and in 2010 the 5-year survival rate for the most common cancer in Australian men was 85%v (prostate canceriv).

Unfortunately, these remarkable advances also mean treatments come at a very high price. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, costs can put an enormous strain on your finances, and taking time off work for sickness and recovery may heighten this.

New cancer treatment methods have led to higher costs required for cancer patients to combat their illness (Source: The Lancet Oncology Commission, 2011, Delivering affordable cancer care in high-income countries, vol. 12, p. 936)

Cancer - a high-cost illness

Results published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicate that in the year between 2000 to 2001, national expenditure on cancer and other neoplasms (abnormal tissue mass) was $2.9 billionvii. According to the Lance Oncology Commission, cancer treatment costs have increased over the last few yearsviii. In 2011, Cancer Council Australia found that $3.8 billion in direct health system costs were dedicated to covering cancer treatment costsii. The increasing cost of treatments are due to the development of new treatment options that are available to cancer patients, including new approaches to early detection, new drugs or new drug indications, new surgical devices, new radiation treatment methods, and new technologies to diagnose and monitor patientsvi.

Financial impacts of cancer

A large investment is made in the health care of Australians each year; in 2009 the government spent around $5,000 per capita on health careix. The Australian Government subsidises cancer treatments through its Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, so much so that cancer drugs here are almost half the price of the same drugs in Canada, the USA and Swedenix. Nevertheless, despite government subsidies and public funding, out-of-pocket expenses for the patient remain high.

Aside from this, the indirect costs, including the time set aside for diagnosis, treatment and recovery from illness can also drain your family's finances. Aggressive treatment plans, such as chemotherapy, can mean that patients are unable to carry on with their job or household duties. Common side effects of chemotherapy include, but are not limited to nausea and vomiting, nerve and muscle problems as well as depression and anxietyx. Given the rise in modern lifestyle and living costs, cancer can severely impact the lifestyle of the patient and their family.

Side effects of cancer treatment may make you unable to work: chemotherapy may lead to side effects such as nausea and vomiting, nerve and muscle problems as well as depression (Source: Cancer Australia, 2009, Side effects of chemotherapy).

Ease the financial burden

Critical Illness cover, also know as Trauma cover, can pay you a lump sum benefit if you suffer a defined Critical Illness event, such as cancer. The benefit is paid directly to the insured and can be used for anything, whether that is contributing to health care costs associated with your illness or just giving you the comfort of knowing you can take time off work to recover. Critical Illness Insurance means peace of mind knowing all of the household commitments can still be met, at such a difficult and personal time it is nice to have a few less worries.

Providing future financial security for your family should not be an after thought, it is important to consider getting cover while you are young and healthy, before you are diagnosed with an illness and there are still a range of options available to you. Be prepared, and get a quote from Allianz today.

Allianz life insurance and its Critical Illness cover can help to provide a safety net for you and your family if you were to become critically ill.


i Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011, New look for AIWH cancer stats, http://www.aihw.gov.au/access/201103/data/cancer-stats.cfm

ii Cancer Council Australia, 2011, Facts and figures, http://www.cancer.org.au/aboutcancer/FactsFigures.htm

iii Breast Cancer Network Australia, 2010, About Breast Cancer, http://www.bcna.org.au/about-breast-cancer

iv Cancer Council Australia, 2011, Frequently Asked Questions: What are the most common cancers?, http://www.cancer.org.au/aboutcancer/FAQ.htm

v Australian Government Cancer Australia, 2010, Prostate and Testicular Cancer, http://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/images/Factsheets/Prostate_and_Testicular_Cancer_Factsheet.pdf

vi The Lancet Oncology Commission, 2011, Delivering affordable cancer care in high-income countries, vol. 12, p. 936

vii Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2001, Health system expenditures on cancer and other neoplasms in Australia 2000-01, p. 1

viii The Lancet Oncology Commission, 2011, Delivering affordable cancer care in high-income countries, vol. 12, p. 933

ix The Lancet Oncology Commission, 2011, Delivering affordable cancer care in high-income countries, vol. 12, p. 934

x Cancer Australia, 2009, Side effects of chemotherapy, http://canceraustralia.nbocc.org.au/breast-cancer/treatment/side-effects-of-chemotherapy