Radiotherapy patients are considered as outpatients at treatment facilities since they do not get admitted to the facility but have to return daily to the premises for treatment. As such they are spared the costs of long hospital stays and other expenses. This makes radiotherapy a cheaper cancer treatment option than others for many patients.
However, that is not to say that the treatment will not burden patients financially. According to survey results collected by the Breast Cancer Network Australia or BCNA in 2011, there were a range of out-of-pocket expenses incurred by patients. For the majority of patients these expenses ranged between $1000 and $2000 but some claim to have spent around $4000 for their radiotherapy treatment.
These expenses were reported by women who had opted for receiving radiotherapy privately. For public patients, there are no out-of-pocket costs and the expenses involved are covered by Medicare. But since most of the patients receive the treatment from private professionals, treatment costs will have to be incurred and since it is an outpatient treatment, many private health insurances may not provide coverage.
Getting treatment at a private facility reflects only part of the costs that breast cancer patients have to face. In addition there may also be other expenses involved especially if women have to travel away from home to receive treatment. Patients coming from rural locations will have to pay for travel as well as accommodation themselves. Travel costs can range from paying airfare to petrol charges when travelling by road.
Patient accommodation and travel schemes (PTAS) are provided by all states and territories of Australia that assist patients financially when they have to travel long distances for their treatment. But since every region has different conditions to meet the criteria, it is advised to call the region’s Department of Health for details.
Even when patients are in the vicinity of the treatment facility, they may still need to drive to the radiotherapy centre and have to pay daily parking fees.
While undergoing treatment, patients will also need to purchase skin care products to relieve uncomfortable symptoms or simply take care of their breast during the course of the radiotherapy sessions. This is also an added out-of-pocket expense for women.
Since some treatment side effects may cause burnt skin or rashes, patients are often advised to wear only cotton t-shirts, loose clothing and wireless bras. To make sure that the level of discomforted associated with the treatment is kept to minimum, patients will need to purchase these extra supplies themselves.
For patients who are part of the workforce, getting radiotherapy will also involve taking time away from paid employment. If there are younger children in the picture, then child care services will need to be arranged for the duration that the parent is away for treatment.
For patients who may suffer from lymphedema as a result of radiotherapy, there are additional costs involved in acquiring compression garments. Patients will also need to make appointments for physiotherapy to get relief from the symptoms involved.
1. Breast Cancer Network Australia Radiotherapy Skin Changes Survey May 2011: http://www.bcna.org.au/sites/default/files/radiotherapy_burns_-_full_report_v5-_ag_-_20110624.pdf
2. Out of pocket expenses: http://www.breastcancerclick.com.au/forums/topic/59/out-of-pocket-expenses
3. Cancer treatment in the private sector: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/healthreport/cancer-treatment-in-the-private-sector/4971566#transcript
4. What is Radiation Therapy?: http://www.ranzcr.edu.au/radiation-oncology/what-is-radiation-therapy
5. Radiation Oncology and Radiotherapy Services: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-roi-radiother-index.htm