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The unexpected costs of a cancer diagnosis

Cancer is always serious business for a patient -- but a diagnosis also often holds unexpected financial consequences for the entire family.

Most people are woefully unprepared for the harsh realities of the unplanned expenses they'll face during treatment (even if they have good medical insurance).

What kinds of expenses do cancer patients often have?

1. Costs directly related to your care

You'll likely have a lot of visits to your doctor (or doctors) in the coming months. Even if your insurance covers everything but a co-pay, that $20 or $30 payment each visit can add up quickly every month.

You also have co-pays for diagnostic tests like MRI scans, blood work and skin patch tests. Those are usually repeated frequently during cancer treatment.

All of that comes before you experience any sort of hospital stay -- which can shoot your expenses right through the roof.

2. Indirect costs related to obtaining medical care

Many cancer victims have to travel in order to receive appropriate treatment for their condition. They usually need to bring along a member of the family to drive. That means hotel bills, money for food, gas and other related travel expenses. The family member may also have to take off work, so there may be lost wages to consider. If a child is left behind at home, there are child care expenses that need to paid.

3. Family expenses and home care

Cancer victims also often need help at home. They may need someone to assist with shopping, cleaning, bathing and dressing. A health aide may be indispensable.

In addition, the cancer patient and his or her family members may need to go to therapy in order to cope with the emotional impact of the diagnosis. Depending on the diagnosis, it may also be important to arrange for end-of-life legal services, including establishing a power of attorney and a will.

Frankly, the cost of cancer is far higher and far more reaching than most people realize. That's one of the main reasons that people who have work-related cancers have won the right to large settlements over the years. It's the only real way to meet all the pressing needs once a diagnosis is made.

Source:, "Understanding the Costs Related to Cancer Care," accessed May 25, 2018

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