Leonie’s Breast Cancer Story
Leonie was diagnosed with stage 3 aggressive breast cancer in November 2011. She thought she was well-insured having had private health insurance which she had been a contributor of for more than 30 years. This, and the fact that she had been paying her taxes since she started working at the age of 16, pushed her into believing that the medical system would take care of her in Australia. She was wrong. Her financial support breast cancer options were limited.
Her first visit was to a referred surgical oncologist. She assumed that this would be her best route as the assumption that the Federal Government expects those with private health insurance to use the private health system, instead of placing further pressure on the public health system.
During this first visit to her doctor, she underwent an ultrasound as well as a needle biopsy. This visit cost her $1200 and she was informed that she would receive a refund of $100 from her health insurance. Already, Leonie was feeling unease about how she would be able to afford the cost of her appointments yet alone the actual breast cancer treatment.
Upon seeing her surgeon, it was agreed that she would have to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Double mastectomy, which is the removal of both breasts in order to remove breast cancer found in either breast as well as to limit the risk of development of breast cancer again in the future, had been the treatment option that Leonie decided to be her best option. Once again, a stop at the reception desk cost her $225, with a possible $80 back from her health care fund. Luckily, her surgical oncologist did not charge in excess of the private health care fees for the mastectomy.
The next test was a node biopsy to aid the oncologist in identifying if any of the cancerous cells had spread. If it had spread, the scan would show the section of the body and the lymph nodes to where it had spread. This process cost $900.
The next appointment was with a plastic surgeon to determine the available surgical options. The cost of this appointment set her back $220. Plastic surgery in Australia is seen as an elective, which is not covered by Medicare. Even though, Leonie’s surgery was due to having breast cancer, there’s a lack of support financially from the health system in Australia.
Medical costs begin to pile up
The medical bills continued to pile up for Leonie and she had several setbacks with additional health problems. For many breast cancer survivors, there can be many unforeseen health problems that can result from the treatment of breast cancer. Without any other options of being able to pay for her medical bills that have continued to grow throughout her breast cancer journey, Leonie made a tough decision to make an application for an early release of her superannuation in order to pay all her medical bills, which at this point was calculated at around $35,000. It is important to note that this is not a final figure as Leonie also had several follow-up consultations and medications required after the initial treatment process her breast cancer. Leonie used a combination of financial support breast cancer options available from the government, non profit organisations and from friends and family for support.
Overcoming financial burden with financial support breast cancer options
If you are experiencing difficulties paying for your medical costs and treatment in Australia, head over to our Breast Cancer Financial Assistance page for tips and suggestions of financial assistance options available in Australia for you to access.
1) The cost of breast cancer on your health and your pocket book http://ourhealth.org.au/stories/cost-breast-cancer-your-health-and-your-pocket-book