Mesothelioma treatment can be costly, from the time of diagnosis through post-treatment care. Costs aren’t only limited to the type of treatment, but also can include required travel, accommodations and more. For some patients, treatment expenses can total tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Taking all costs into consideration, it’s crucial for patients to establish a financial plan. There are many resources that may be available to lower costs or make bills more manageable. Patients can also research the different costs associated with various diagnostic tools and treatment options to make more informed decisions about what’s best for them.
Common Mesothelioma Treatment Costs
It can be difficult to understand or estimate the costs associated with mesothelioma treatment. However, a general understanding of common fees can help patients and their loved ones plan. Common diagnostic and treatment costs are listed below, but are only estimates.
|Mesothelioma Diagnosis & Treatment Costs||Approximate Cost Range|
|Diagnostic Imaging (CT, PET, MRI)||$800 – $1,600 per scan|
|Needle Biopsy||$500 – $700|
|Thoracoscopy or Pleuroscopy (lungs) or Laparoscopy (abdomen)||$3,600 – $5,000|
|Thoracotomy (lungs) or Laparotomy (abdomen)||$7,800 – $7,900|
|Surgery – Lobectomy/Pneumonectomy (removal of part or all of a lung)||$13,000 – $17,000|
|Radiation||$7,000 – $12,000|
|Chemotherapy – Pemetrexed (Alimta®)||$37,000 – $50,000|
|Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)||$700 – $1,000|
It’s important to note that average prices can vary based on insurance coverage, location and whether care is in- or out-of-network. Additional costs are also not taken into account, such as anesthesia, preoperative preparations, postoperative care or some prescriptions. Tools like the FAIR Health Consumer and Healthcare Bluebook are resources for estimating costs, taking insurance, location and network into account.
Mesothelioma Diagnostic Costs
Diagnostic costs for mesothelioma cancer can be high. Misdiagnosis is common, so multiple tests may be run to ensure an accurate diagnosis, determining mesothelioma type, cell type and staging. It’s also common for mesothelioma patients to get a second opinion, which is also typically not covered by insurance.
Imaging tests can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars each time a patient has to have a scan done. The cost of imaging machines and ongoing maintenance can be extensive. There is also a need to hire well-trained technicians who specialize in imaging scanning with the ability to perform and analyze the scans accurately.
From least to most expensive, common scans used to diagnose mesothelioma include X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans and PET scans. Costs not including insurance can range from $800 – $1,600 for a single scan. Patients should keep in mind that multiple scans can be required to diagnose malignant mesothelioma.
Biomarkers and Blood Tests
Researchers continue to study mesothelioma biomarkers, analyzing what specialized blood tests may be able to confirm a history of asbestos exposure or suggest a mesothelioma diagnosis. Common tests could include MESOMARK, HMGB1, Osteopontin or Fibulin-3.
Biomarkers are a relatively new area of study, so it’s difficult to estimate the average pricing. Many health insurance companies deem these blood tests not medically necessary, denying any coverage. Patients should discuss potential costs with their doctor prior to testing.
Pricing can vary widely for biopsies, as there are many different types. Some biopsies are minimally invasive, while others require a surgical procedure, which could end up costing more.
- Needle extraction biopsy: Fine needle aspiration, thoracentesis, paracentesis, pericardiocentesis
- Semi-invasive: Thoracoscopy/pleuroscopy, laparoscopy
- Invasive: Thoracotomy, laparotomy
It’s common for doctors to start with a minimally invasive biopsy. Sometimes the fluid or tissue sample is not adequate and another, more invasive biopsy may be necessary to confirm details of a diagnosis. Multiple biopsies can result in higher medical costs.
Mesothelioma Treatment Costs
After a mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed, patients will establish a treatment plan with their medical care team. Costs will accumulate throughout treatment and after, so patients should understand all potential costs.
The cost of mesothelioma surgery can vary greatly based on the type of surgery, location of tumors and invasiveness of the procedure. For example, the removal of a lung (pneumonectomy) is much more costly than simply reducing tumor size (cytoreduction or debulking). Pricing can vary greatly for palliative surgeries as well, such as with pleurodesis and paracentesis where fluid is removed from around the lungs or abdomen.
There are many different chemotherapy drugs available for treating mesothelioma. A combination of Alimta (pemetrexed) and cisplatin are considered the gold standard of mesothelioma care, which can cost thousands of dollars for a single treatment. Typically, a single round of chemotherapy (lasting several weeks) can total as high as $50,000. For most patients, a treatment plan will consist of multiple courses of chemotherapy. Other types of chemotherapy may cost less, but none are considered inexpensive.
Radiation Therapy Costs
Studies have shown that cancer patients paying for aggressive treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can face widely different medical bills based on location. Further differing prices is the length of treatment for the patient and the type of radiation therapy being used.
The two main types of radiation used to treat mesothelioma are external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and internal beam radiation therapy (IBRT). EBRT is typically done as an outpatient procedure and is cheaper than IBRT. IBRT requires direct application to the tumor with a more invasive procedure, resulting in higher prices. With no coverage, radiation therapy for mesothelioma patients can range from $10,000 – $50,000.
Emerging Treatment and Clinical Trial Costs
New and emerging treatments often cost more than traditional treatments, since they are still being researched and developed. They are also typically not covered by insurance until they get FDA approval.
In the case of mesothelioma clinical trials, studies are often funded by governments, universities or pharmaceutical companies, sparing patients some of the cost. However, patients should discuss their options and potential costs with their physician before making decisions about their treatment plan.
Other Related Costs
When establishing a financial plan, patients should consider additional costs that might arise when seeking a diagnosis, treatment and after-treatment care.
Complications and Secondary Illnesses
Patients may experience treatment side effects, complications or secondary illnesses that require additional care. This can include:
- Cancer recurrence or new cancers in another part of the body
- Dental problems caused by chemotherapy or radiation
- Hormonal imbalances
- Lung or heart problems due to radiation or chemotherapy treatment
- Mental or emotional issues due to the traumatic experience of having cancer
- Problems due to the removal of one or more organs
Such concerns could add more medical bills on to patients’ current treatment costs and should be accounted for. In many cases, these conditions could result in long-term care.
Travel, Room and Board
Mesothelioma patients often have to travel to receive experienced care from a mesothelioma doctor or cancer center. This can lead to several transportation fees, along with fees for accommodations, food, gas and other travel-related expenses. While there are programs available to help mitigate these costs, like American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery and Hope Lodges, patients and their loved ones should be mindful of these secondary costs.
Ongoing Checkups and Prescriptions
Throughout treatment, and if the cancer goes into remission, patients will likely need to undergo frequent checkups. Doctors will want to see if the cancer spreads or subsides throughout treatment, and if successful, will want to watch out for any potential recurrence. Patients should take any associated medical bills and copays into account. Additionally, there may be a need for mesothelioma patients to take long-term prescriptions, which may or may not be covered under insurance.
Managing Mesothelioma Treatment Costs
Patients often look for ways to minimize or better manage their cancer treatment costs after adding up all of the potential fees. Patients and their loved ones should always communicate with their medical care team or cancer center staff, as they can often provide information about potential discounts, cost-friendly solutions or local resources that can help. Some hospital or doctor fees may also be able to be reduced or waived, or funding options and special programs could provide payment for medical treatment.
Health insurance plans can help patients immensely with covering costs associated with mesothelioma treatment. Insurance options may be private or can be through the government, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Coverage options differ greatly based on the type of insurance, the insurance company, benefit offerings (if through an employer) and the specific plan type. Most insurance companies cover hospitalization, preventative procedures and prescriptions, but patients often have to pay a copay or meet a deductible. Many procedures and tests may also be deemed not medically necessary, which denies the patient coverage. Patients should contact their insurance company prior to treatment to fully understand what is and isn’t covered.
Some insurance companies offer cancer insurance, which is a supplemental form of insurance that helps offset the cost of cancer-specific medical bills. Cancer insurance would have to be acquired and paid for prior to diagnosis and typically is not available for patients that have already been diagnosed.
Depending on your age and/or income level, you may be eligible for certain government health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare Part A and Part B cover certain forms of cancer treatment, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which typically limits the amount patients have to pay to 20% of the total cost. Drugs related to cancer treatment, including drugs to treat side effects, such as anti-nausea drugs, are typically covered under either Medicare Part B or Part D.
There are many medical centers that offer care specifically to veterans through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of these centers have experience treating mesothelioma, but veterans may seek care from another main cancer center, if they choose. There are many veteran benefits and programs that patients may be eligible for that could help them pay for their treatments.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma. Most exposure has occurred as a result of negligence or other product liability claims. As a result, mesothelioma patients or surviving family members may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit, seeking financial compensation after a diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease. Many asbestos companies were forced to set up asbestos trust funds with sufficient funds to pay out current and future claims, allowing individuals to collect compensation long after their exposure.
Patients should discuss whether or not legal action is an option for them with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer. Lawyers with a history of mesothelioma cases can better understand what requirements need to be met, what research needs to be done and how to get the most financial assistance possible for patients and their families.
Author: Linda Molinari
Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer AllianceRead about Linda
Reviewer: Annette Charlevois
Patient Support CoordinatorRead about Annette
American Cancer Society. The Affordable Care Act: How It Helps People With Cancer and Their Families.
Healthcare Bluebook. Find Your Fair Price.
National Institutes of Health. Annualized Mean Net Costs of Care per Patient.