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Cancer Treatment Expenses: Why Are They So High, And How Can They Be Avoided?

Cancer Treatment Expenses: Why Are They So High, And How Can They Be Avoided?

Cancer is a deadly disease that can take a person’s life if left untreated. Its insidious nature can ravage organs, leaving individuals incapacitated or confined to a bed. Tragically, the financial burden of treatment compounds the already daunting challenges posed by this disease. Families facing a cancer diagnosis often find themselves grappling with the staggering costs of medical care, which can profoundly impact their financial stability. But why are these expenses so exorbitant, and is there a way to mitigate them? Read this article to know more about it.

What is cancer?  

Cancer is an umbrella term used to describe hundreds of diseases that are characterised by uncontrolled cell division. It is caused by abnormal mitosis, a change in the body’s normal cell division process, in which old cells die and are replaced by new cells. As a result, the abnormal cells combine to form a lump of tissue known as a tumour. Tumours can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A malignant tumour can spread from it’s point of origin and invade other organs, including the brain, a condition known as metastasis.

What are the different types of cancer treatment?  

  • Chemotherapy: It is a process where powerful drugs are administered to kill the cancer cells that are growing and spreading in the human body. Chemo drugs are given before surgery to reduce the size of the tumour (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) or after the surgery to ensure that cancerous cells are all destroyed (adjuvant chemotherapy).
  • Hormone therapy: It is the type of cancer treatment where hormones inhibiting cancer growth are introduced to the human body. Hormone therapy is given to those cancers are sensitive to hormones.
  • Immunotherapy: It is the type of cancer treatment where the body’s immune system is triggered to fight against the disease.
  • Radiation therapy: It is the type of cancer treatment process where high doses of radiation are used to kill the cancer cells in the human body. Just like chemotherapy, radiation therapy is also given before surgery to reduce the size of the tumour (neoadjuvant) or after surgery to remove the tumour present in the body.
  • Stem cell transplant: It is a procedure that involves the introduction healthy stem cells into the human body to produce healthy blood cells.
  • Surgery: The cancerous tumour is removed from the human body through surgery, along with some normal tissue (if required). It is the most effective procedure that ensures the complete removal of the tumour. 
  • Hyperthermia: Cancer treatment process where the human body’s temperature is increased enough to kill the cancer cells without destroying the normal tissues.

Why is cancer treatment expensive?

Cancer treatment depends on five crucial aspects; 

  1. Medicines
  2. Personnel
  3. Equipment
  4. Infrastructure
  5. Frequency

Drugs used in chemotherapy are expensive, where the minimum cost of one sitting of chemotherapy is Rs 18,000. The overall cost of chemodrugs depends on the type of cancer and the number of chemo sittings required. Similarly, the instruments used for surgery, equipment, and infrastructure come with their expenses because the majority of them are imported. According to a report published in the economic times, 70% of hospital technology and equipment are imported. 

Effective cancer treatment requires medical personnel who have the knowledge and experience. Since the disease puts an individual into a life-and-death situation, getting treatment without compromising quality is always recommended. 

One factor that increases cancer treatment expense is the frequency of treatment. For example, stage 3 and stage 4 patients have to undergo several cycles of chemotherapy where the cost of one cycle of chemotherapy ranges between 10K to 50K. 

In addition, treatment processes like immunotherapy and radiation involve imported equipment and medicine. The average cost of immunotherapy ranges between Rs 1,50,000 – Rs 4,55,000, but this can vary depending on the drugs used for the disease. 

The minimum cost of radiation therapy is Rs 4.75 lakhs, and it can go up to Rs 20 lakhs depending on the type of cancer and type of radiation treatment plan. 

Cancer treatment always goes into lakhs, and patients are often forced to discontinue it because they cannot afford it. 

Patients need supportive therapy in addition to cancer treatment to deal with the side effects and physical health problems or disabilities brought on by the disease. A significant amount goes out of the cancer patient’s pocket in the form of out-of-pocket expenses. 

Also read: 5 effective ways to avoid breast cancer risk 

Is it possible to avoid high cancer treatment expenses?

Early diagnosis is the most reliable and feasible way to avoid cancer treatment expenses. The peculiarity of this disease is that signs and symptoms don’t show until they reach later stages.
Unfortunately, people tend to ignore the signs that show up during the earlier stages.
Lack of awareness is one of the reasons why people end up facing the wrath of cancer. In addition, fear of possible cancer diagnosis and social stigma associated with people seeking healthcare feeds this. Women suffer from social stigma related to healthcare more than men.
For example, breast cancer detection often involves physical examination, and women often don’t cooperate. The orthodox culture around female sexuality prevents girls and women from taking a pap smear test, especially when they are unmarried. Pap smear test helps in catching cervical cancer in its early stages, including its precancerous conditions.

Early screening and testing for cancer help in the early diagnosis of the disease. If it is caught in its first or second stage, the treatment process can be completed with surgery alone. Even if chemotherapy or other forms of treatment are needed, it can be finished with two or three rounds instead of dozens.
In addition to that, people can avoid radical changes to their appearance or physiology through early detection. 

Early diagnosis saves 9 out of every 10 cancer. 

What are the various early cancer diagnosis methods?

Lab tests: Lab tests are diagnostic procedures performed on samples of blood, urine, tissue, or other bodily fluids to assess a person’s health status, detect diseases, monitor treatment effectiveness, or screen for potential health risks. These tests utilize various techniques and instruments to analyze chemical composition, cellular structures, genetic markers, and other biological parameters. Results from lab tests aid healthcare professionals in making accurate diagnoses and developing appropriate treatment plans for patients. Different lab tests are as follows; 

  • Blood chemistry test: It checks the normal functioning of the human body by checking the normal levels of various metabolites, electrolytes, glucose, enzymes, fats, and proteins. Abnormal levels indicate a possible disease or malfunctioning of various organs or glands.
  • Complete blood count (CBC): It measures the number of RBC (red blood cells), WBC (white blood cells) and platelets in the human body. The presence of abnormal blood cells suggests leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma. 
  • Cytogenetic analysis: It checks for the changes in chromosomes in the samples of blood, bone marrow or tissues. 
  • Immunophenotyping: It uses antibodies to identify various cells. 
  • Liquid biopsy: It is meant to check for the presence of cancer in the blood. 
  • Sputum cytology: It checks for abnormal cells in mucous brought up from the lungs called sputum.
  • Tumour marker tests: These measure certain substances produced by cancer cells.
  • Urinalysis: It checks for the presence of sugar, protein, red blood cells, and white blood cells in the urine. 
  • Urine cytology: It checks for the presence of abnormal cells from the urine tract. 

Imaging tests: Imaging tests are diagnostic techniques that create visual representations of the inside of the body. In cancer diagnosis, imaging tests play a crucial role by allowing healthcare professionals to visualize abnormalities, tumours, or metastases within the body. These tests help determine the location, size, and extent of the cancer, aiding in accurate staging and treatment planning. Imaging tests can also be used to monitor the progress of treatment and detect any recurrence of cancer. Various imaging tests are as follows;

  • CT scan (computed tomography scan): It is a process where a series of pictures are taken using an X-ray to create a detailed 3D image of the human body. 
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): It uses powerful magnetic and radio waves to take images of the human body in slices. 
  • Nuclear scan: It uses radioactive material to take images of the insides of the human body. 
  • Bone scan: It is a nuclear scan that checks for the presence of abnormalities in the bones. 
  • PET scan: It is a nuclear scan that makes detailed 3D pictures of those portions of the human body where the glucose is taken up. 
  • Ultrasound: It is a process that involves high-energy sound waves which echo off tissues in the human body. 
  • X-rays: It uses low doses of radiation to provide a clear picture of the insides of the human body. 


A biopsy is a process that confirms whether the abnormal cells growing in the human body are benign or malignant. It is a procedure that involves the removal of a tissue sample from the human body and then checking under a microscope. Samples are taken using a needle (needle biopsy) or processes like endoscopy (colonoscopy, bronchoscopy) or surgery.

In conclusion,

People are recommended to go through tests recommended by medical experts once a year or every six months. Even if stage 0 or stage 1 is treated, it is possible for it to come back, a condition known as recurrent cancer. So, patients are expected to follow up on their treatment processes and tests to prevent the same. 

Even if a person finds cancer in its later stage, they should not lose hope. They can get funds through various insurance schemes, loans, or from NGO foundations and fundraising platforms. Cancer is no longer a death sentence. People can fight it. It is just a matter of finding the will to fight it.

How can CancerMitr help you?  

CancerMitr is a health-tech organisation dedicated to guiding and caring for all cancer patients in India and around the world. We provide early screening and testing packages. We work together to hold our patients’ hands from discovery to recovery.

Visit our website for more information on the various packages we provide. 

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