The financial cost of breast cancer

Over the years, many women have spoken to us about the out-of-pocket costs related to their breast cancer diagnosis and the impact this had on them and their families.

BCNA has recently undertaken a major project to investigate the financial impact of breast cancer. We employed the consultancy firm Deloitte to survey members about their out-of-pocket costs related to their breast cancer, and we interviewed a number of women about their personal stories.

We were overwhelmed with the response to the survey, with almost 2,000 people participating. It indicated to us what a huge issue this is for some of you.

Results of the survey showed that out-of-pocket costs can vary considerably, even for people who have similar treatments. Breast surgery, particularly breast reconstruction, had the highest out-of-pocket costs, with some women telling us they paid up to $18,000 for their reconstruction. Women with private health insurance reported greater out-of-pocket costs than those who had their treatment in the public health system.

We were surprised to find that people living in rural areas had a similar amount of out-of-pocket costs to those living in cities. The survey showed, however, that rural people tend to have less treatment – so are in fact paying more for less. The survey also showed that the financial impact on rural families is greater because their household income is often lower than that of city families – so their out-of-pocket costs represent a higher percentage of their household income.

The study also found that many people have:

  • faced difficulties with their workplace
  • relied on family and friends for financial assistance
  • experienced problems getting payments through superannuation, income protection or other insurance
  • experienced changes to their long-term financial plans and goals.

BCNA will use the findings of this project to continue to lobby governments and others to reduce the out-of-pocket costs related to breast cancer. The project report will be launched later in the year and published on our website,

BCNA thanks everyone who participated in the survey and interviews for this project.

Issue 78
Autumn 2017