The Cost of a Cancer Diagnosis

It really brought it home to me that there really is a significant monetary cost of being diagnosed with cancer - at a time when you can least afford it - when I recently had to have dental treatment.

Considering dipping into savings

I’d been in significant pain for weeks and could only control it with strong pain killers. Upon investigation, it turns out that I had an infection that antibiotics would get rid of, but the tooth would need to be removed.

However, due to being on long-term hormone therapy, I also have to have bisphosphonate infusions quarterly to help maintain bone density. Extractions can be hugely problematic, potentially leading to osteonecrosis of the jaw, and I definitely didn’t fancy that!

The alternative was root canal treatment. The price difference is c. £800, meaning a dip into savings - savings that are earmarked for my wife’s future when the prostate cancer finally gets me.

Transportation costs

This led me to think about the other costs that come with a prostate cancer diagnosis. The list got longer and longer the more I thought about it and asked other men for their thoughts.

Travel costs back and to cancer centers/hospitals is an obvious one. When I was first diagnosed, I was at the hospital every 2-3 weeks for nearly 9 months, and even now I’m there every 3 months.

It’s a 20-minute drive, so there are car costs. By public transport it would be multiple transport modes and a significant cost. Traveling by car is much more convenient, but when I get to the hospital, you have to pay for daily car parking.

If you don’t drive and public transport is too difficult, as it is right now thanks to COVID-19, then it means expensive taxis. Of course traveling back and to for daily radiotherapy soon racks up the costs!

Other prostate cancer costs

For some men, treatment leads to incontinence and having to pay for incontinence pads.

Travel insurance, if you are lucky enough to get it, becomes incredibly expensive.

Many men tell me about the cost of medical insurance. In my own case, the cover has increased 4.5 times in the last 3 years. At renewal next year, I’ll have to dispense with it, which is hugely worrying as I can’t get Abiraterone on the UK NHS.

Navigating side effects

Another man tells me of having to have a complete change of wardrobe due to weight gain.

One man was concerned about what his consultant was proposing, so he sought a second opinion at considerable expense. However, he tells me it was worth every penny!

There are increased heating costs due to always feeling cold or, in my case, running a fan all night on warm evenings to help with night sweats.

Reducing work hours

In some cases, men find that they simply can’t continue to work due to treatment side effects, and so their income is adversely affected just when they need it most.

In my own case, receiving news of a worst-case prognosis of two years really focused my mind. I was co-owner of an accountancy practice with lots of stress and responsibility. The last thing I needed was that stress, and I chose to reduce my working hours.

At the time of my diagnosis I had a 3-year grandson who I absolutely doted on, and I wanted to spend time building memories for him for when I’m no longer around. So I reduced my hours and picked him up from school three days a week. This in turn led to friction at work that I could have done without.

Some men of course find it impossible to work while having aggressive treatments like chemotherapy, and some employers are far from understanding.

Rocked by extra costs

As if a cancer diagnosis and an incurable one to boot isn’t bad enough, you get rocked by all these extra costs just as your income is reduced.

It’s not fair, is it? What extra costs have you had to incur? How do you all cope financially?

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