The Financial Impact of Treating Metastatic Breast Cancer

Treatment costs for advanced breast cancer can vary widely depending on the stage and type of cancer, as well as the chosen treatment regimen. These expenses can accumulate significantly.

Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), classified as stage 4, occurs when breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body beyond the breast tissue. It often manifests in bones, brain, liver, and other organs detected through imaging tests.

Some individuals receive an initial diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer, indicating it has already spread upon discovery. Others develop MBC months or years after an initial breast cancer diagnosis.

Treatment for MBC is continuous and evolving. The longer someone lives with MBC, the higher the treatment costs escalate.

Here’s how a diagnosis of MBC can impact your financial situation, along with resources available for financial assistance.

Understanding the Costs of MBC Treatment

Research from 2020 estimates that monthly treatment costs for women aged 18-44 with MBC average around $4,463. However, actual costs vary depending on individual circumstances.

Each type of treatment—such as radiation, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, targeted therapy, antibody drug conjugates, or surgery—comes with its own cost. Insurance coverage also influences these costs significantly.

The duration of MBC treatment is another critical factor affecting long-term expenses. Moreover, geographic location plays a role; areas with higher living costs typically entail higher treatment expenses.

Additionally, indirect costs can arise, including lost wages due to missed work and transportation expenses to medical appointments. Even after completing treatment, ongoing medical visits, tests, and screenings are necessary to monitor for cancer recurrence, all of which add to financial burdens.

Direct Medical Costs

The specific costs of MBC treatment vary. For instance, according to 2016 research:

  • Chemotherapy treatments cost an average of $34,153 per session.
  • Radiation therapy averages $12,015, with additional costs for prescription drugs.
  • Targeted therapy and immunotherapy can cost $20,555 and $33,853 respectively.
  • Surgery for stage 4 breast cancer averages $3,180 for inpatient and $4,480 for outpatient procedures.

Hospitalizations related to MBC care can significantly increase these expenses.

Many individuals with MBC require lifelong treatment, spanning over a decade or more. Prolonged treatment durations inevitably lead to higher medical costs, particularly with advancements in treatment extending life expectancy.

Research forecasts that by 2023, total MBC care costs will exceed $152 billion, underscoring the immense financial impact of prolonged cancer treatment.

Health Insurance Coverage Insurance

coverage varies widely, influencing out-of-pocket expenses. While many plans cover basic breast cancer treatments, prescription drug coverage may not be comprehensive. Expensive treatments like chemotherapy and targeted therapy may not be fully covered, particularly under high-deductible plans.

Understanding deductibles and coinsurance percentages is crucial. High deductibles, sometimes exceeding $18,000 annually for family coverage, mean significant upfront costs before insurance coverage kicks in. Coinsurance further adds to out-of-pocket expenses.

It’s advisable to clarify coverage details with your healthcare provider and explore financial assistance options if needed.

Indirect Expenses

Beyond treatment costs, MBC affects various aspects of daily life, leading to additional expenses:

  • Copayments for frequent doctor visits, typically ranging from $15 to $50 per appointment.
  • Mental health support, such as therapy sessions costing up to $250 each without insurance coverage.
  • Complementary therapies like acupuncture, averaging around $100 per session and often not covered by insurance.
  • Transportation expenses for medical appointments, including gas, tolls, and parking fees.
  • Lost wages, potentially exceeding $21,000 due to missed work or early retirement.
  • Additional expenses for household help, childcare during treatment, and costs associated with wigs or other necessities.

Financial Support Resources Despite

the financial challenges posed by MBC, various strategies can help manage costs:

  • Explore medication assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies.
  • Compare medication prices and consider participating in clinical trials for access to innovative treatments.
  • Consult with your healthcare team about available financial support options.

Organizations like theAmerican Cancer Society, CancerCare, Family Reach, Pink Fund, and Susan G. Komen offer support and financial assistance for cancer treatment.


Managing the financial implications of living with MBC can be overwhelming, given ongoing treatment, follow-up care, and associated indirect costs. While health insurance covers some expenses, understanding coverage limitations is crucial for financial planning.

If concerned about out-of-pocket costs, discussing financial assistance options with healthcare providers and advocacy groups can provide valuable support.”