Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and it’s one of the deadliest diseases. More than 250,000 people are diagnosed each year, and one of their first thoughts usually goes to treatment. This thought brings with it a lot of understandable questions.
What are my treatment options for lung cancer?
What are the chances treatment will work for me?
And finally, how much will lung cancer treatment cost me?
A small percentage of lung cancer cases are caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a raw mineral used to make buildings sturdier and safer, particularly from fire damage. Asbestos can also be cancerous, entering the body and piercing into tissue linings. Lung tissue can be affected by asbestos fibers and around 10,000 people each year are diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer.
Treatment for lung cancer is the same regardless of whether asbestos is the cause or not. The price is also the same.
Mesothelioma Guide has prepared a page breaking down the average costs of lung cancer treatment. This page includes the average amount that lung cancer patients pay for treatment (adding up what they’ll pay for each treatment), plus the average cost of each individual type of treatment.
Average Cost of Lung Cancer Treatment
The website VeryWellHealth cited a report that analyzed costs billed to Medicare for cancer treatment. Lung cancer treatment in the first year of diagnosis averaged $65,700 per patient. Oral medications, which usually help with pain management, averaged $3,500 per patient in the first year of treatment.
The cost for treatment was much lower in the follow-up years, averaging just $11,900 per patient per year. Oral medication was below $3,000 per patient per year.
These figures estimate the total amount of cost, not the out-of-pocket costs for patients. Insurance usually reduces the amount substantially, and patients with insurance like Medicare are only responsible for a few thousand dollars.
This data from Medicare is particularly relevant for people with asbestos lung cancer. Medicare is a health insurance option for people ages 65 and older, and the majority of people with asbestos diseases are 50 years old or older.
Asbestos sits in the body for decades without causing immediate damage, but it slowly aggravates tissue linings until eventually causing cells to mutate. This process can take 20-50 years, which is why asbestos lung cancer patients are usually older. They often qualify for Medicare coverage.
Average Cost for Lung Cancer Surgery
Surgery costs between $15,000 and $30,000. The report from Medicare estimated that patients were responsible for only $1,738 out of pocket. This data was from 2017.
There are a few surgeries for lung cancer. They differ in how much of the lung is taken out. The four surgeries for lung cancer are:
- Pneumonectomy – Removes the whole lung
- Lobectomy – Removes entire lobes of a lung, but not the whole lung
- Segmentectomy – Removes segments of lobes
- Wedge resection – Removes a wedge-shaped part of the lung
Average Cost for Lung Cancer Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy has the largest range of costs. The amount could be as low as a few thousand dollars or as high as $200,000. Fortunately, chemotherapy is often covered by Medicare and private insurance plans.
Chemotherapy is the most common type of cancer treatment. If surgery isn’t an option, chemotherapy is usually recommended for patients. The emergence of immunotherapy has provided an alternative, but chemotherapy remains a central part of cancer treatment.
Average Cost for Lung Cancer Immunotherapy
The cost of immunotherapy treatment varies, but in general is quite expensive. There are different types of immunotherapy: monoclonal antibodies, immune checkpoint inhibitors, CAR T-cell therapy, and more.
For instance, according to the website Talk to Mira, one infusion of CAR T-cell therapy can cost more than $300,000. This therapy usually only needs one infusion, but that price tag is very high.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors can cost around $10,000 a month ($120,000 a year). Oncolytic virus therapy, or virotherapy, is estimated at $65,000 a year.
Average Cost for Lung Cancer Radiation
VeryWellHealth reported that radiation for lung cancer usually costs a little more than $9,000 per patient. It’s often covered in full by Medicare and private insurance plans.
Other Costs From Lung Cancer Treatment
In addition to treatment like surgery or immunotherapy, medical care often includes:
- Imaging tests
- Blood tests
- Biopsy surgery
- In-patient, overnight hospital stays and nursing care
- Postoperative rehabilitation
All of these forms of medical care cost money, usually hundreds or thousands of dollars. Insurance pays a percentage, but patients may have out-of-pocket costs.
There are indirect costs of lung cancer treatment, too. They are part of the process patients go through to receive treatment from a lung cancer specialist:
There are also caregiver costs, lost wages, counseling, palliative care, and quality-of-life therapies (such as acupuncture). These costs add up for patients and their families, often draining savings accounts in hopes of a cancer-free future.
How to Reduce Your Out-of-Pocket Costs for Lung Cancer Treatment
This breakdown should give people with lung cancer an expectation for the financial cost of treatment. If you have asbestos lung cancer, you can receive financial compensation to help pay for life-saving treatment.
Talk with our registered nurse, Karen Ritter, for patient help with lung cancer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org today to see if there are ways you and your family can minimize the out-of-pocket expenses for your lung cancer treatment.
Sources & Author
About the Writer, Devin Golden
Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin’s objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.
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