Several people have asked me this and my initital response is, “I have insurance. How should I know?” Well, that got me thinking, so I looked it up and the answer is…

The retail cost of my first month of treatment was $49,975.

WPA Poster "Beware of the Cancer Quack"

Their hospitals do the advertising for them, JK

Of course, no-one pays retail for health care, at least in Massachusetts, so I really have no idea what this big number means.

This amount is based on the claims received by my HMO for that time period. It does not include anything performed before my diagnosis was made, nor my current outpatient needs like prescriptions, wig (er, prosthesis), and all new personal care products. Yes, goodbye expensive night cream. You’ll probably expire before I can use you again.

So, what did this $50K buy exactly?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m enrolled in a clinical trial which means that anything outside of the normal course of care they need to do for the trial should be free, but I’m not really sure how that works. In fact, I find it kind of horrifying, being someone that crunches numbers all day, I don’t have a better understanding of medical billing. I guess that’s why it’s an entire profession. Anyway, my insurance company pays wholesale, of course, so the amount they paid overall was about a third of that amount billed to them. All things considered, I had a lot of stuff done for $16,650.

The only thing that horrified me looking at my statements was that one third of the retail cost of my AC chemo day, including the bloodwork, and doctor visit, is one drug and it’s not an actual chemo drug either. It’s an anti-nausea drug that I take over the course of three days (it WAS itemized). If you add in the other pre-chemo anti-nausea IV drug, the second most-expensive single item on the claim, the number goes up to 44% of the total retail cost of the day.

The stuff WORKS, but boy is it expensive!

Bugatti Veyron est. $1,700,000

Bugatti Veyron est. $1,700,000

My insurance pays full price for those, so I guess this gets to the heart of prescription drug reform in the U.S. It probably cost the drug companies millions of dollars to develop those drugs and they need to recoup their costs somehow. The question is at what point does this cost just become ludicrous?

Apparently not at $550 a pill.

Silver Lining: It’s not all going to my oncologist’s Lexus after all. If it were, he’d probably have a Bugatti from me by the time this is over.

Anyway, if you’re curious, here are the services I actually received in that time. Use the mouse-overs to get descriptions!

3 Rounds of Blood Work and Urine Tests
3 Oncologist Visits
2 Social Worker Visits
1 Radiologist Visit
1 Surgeon Visit
1 Genetic Counseling Appointment

1 – MUGA Scan (for the trial so not included)
1 – CT Scan
1 – Bone Scan
1 – EKG
1 – MRI
2 – Core Biopsies (exclude at least one for trial)
1 – MRI Assisted Biopsy (plus mammograms)
Plus all of the diagnostic tests associated with the biopsies to that date.

1 – AC Chemo Treatment (including the drugs Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Emend, Decadron, Aloxi)
1 – Trial Drug Only Chemo Treatment (again trial-related)


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2 Responses to How Much Does Cancer Cost?

  1. Kristina Murray says:

    How are you now after a few years?

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