01. Mesothelioma Expense Overview
Expenses Associated With Mesothelioma
There are several components to be aware of when calculating the total likely cost of mesothelioma treatment. Some expenses mesothelioma patients may encounter include:
- Follow-up care
Mesothelioma is quite rare, so there is little collected data on average costs. However, healthcare costs for lung cancer are comparable. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reported the average cost of initial care for lung cancer patients was around $68,293. This data was collected and analyzed from 2013 to 2017.
Some treatments may be more affordable than others. For example, treatments in the clinical trial phase may have lower out-of-pocket costs for patients. In some instances, insurance may cover clinical trial participation and patient care costs.
Navigating these costs can be daunting, especially after an unexpected diagnosis. Careful financial planning, insurance, government assistance and legal compensation can help ease these burdens.
Resources for Mesothelioma Patients
02. Mesothelioma Diagnostic Costs
How Much Does It Cost to Diagnose Mesothelioma?
Costs for a mesothelioma diagnosis depend on the types of tests administered. In a 2014 study, researchers found the average total diagnostic workup cost for a patient with lung cancer was $7,567. This does not take into account insurance coverage.
Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because of its rarity, nonspecific symptoms and long latency period. It may require multiple tests before a doctor is able to reach a mesothelioma diagnosis for a patient.
Biopsies are the only definitive way to diagnose mesothelioma. However, imaging tests for mesothelioma and blood tests can also be used. These options may be more affordable. Imaging and blood tests may serve as a first step to see if a patient has mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Diagnostic Test Costs
Imaging scan costs vary based on the breadth of the scan (full body vs. partial) and the type of scan. In a 2014 study, researchers found the average cost of a chest CT scan for a lung cancer patient was $184.
Diagnostic imaging can help doctors determine tumor location and size. Common tests include X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and PET scans.
Biomarkers are a relatively new area of study, so it is difficult to estimate average pricing.
Blood tests can be used to screen for mesothelioma biomarkers. These are substances in the blood that may indicate the presence of cancer. Common tests could include MESOMARK, HMGB1, Osteopontin or Fibulin-3.
In a 2014 study, researchers found the average biopsy cost for patients diagnosed with lung cancer was $14,634. Costs may fluctuate over time.
Biopsies remove fluid or tissue samples from the patient to test for cancer. Common types include needle biopsies and surgical biopsies. Some types of biopsies are more costly than others.
03. Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment
How Much Does It Cost to Treat Mesothelioma?
The total cost of mesothelioma treatment can vary greatly based on a patient’s treatment plan. Many common mesothelioma treatment options require several courses, creating a recurring cost for patients.
These costs may be reduced with financial assistance. Patients may be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, disability benefits or legal action. All of these can help reduce the financial burden of mesothelioma treatment.
Costs of Common Mesothelioma Treatments
After a confirmed mesothelioma diagnosis, a patient’s care team will work to establish a treatment plan. Costs depend on the type of treatment.
Costs associated with different types of cancer treatment vary. Lung cancer care costs can be used to estimate mesothelioma expenses. Cost estimates for treatments commonly used for mesothelioma include:
- Surgery: Common mesothelioma surgeries include extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), cytoreduction surgery and pleurectomy and decortication (P/D). In one study, researchers examined average hospital costs for mesothelioma care, including P/D surgery. The average hospital cost for this surgery was $53,993.
- Chemotherapy: One of the most common treatments for mesothelioma is the combination of chemotherapy drugs Alimta® (pemetrexed) and cisplatin. In 2017, the recommended six cycles of this mesothelioma chemotherapy cost $38,779 for an average-size male patient.
- Multimodal treatments: Multimodal treatments can be effective at extending patients’ life expectancy. These treatments combine multiple therapies, such as surgery and chemotherapy. As a result, the costs can vary greatly. A common therapy for peritoneal patients is the combination of cytoreductive surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). One 2020 study found the median direct variable cost of this treatment combination was $20,509.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a newer addition to the mesothelioma treatment arsenal. One of the most prominent treatments is the drug Keytruda® (pembrolizumab). The list price for a dose of Keytruda, given every three weeks, is $10,268.72. Insurance can reduce this cost. The cost of other immunotherapies varies.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation costs for mesothelioma vary based on location, duration and number of sessions. One study found average monthly cancer-attributable costs for the initial phase of radiation cost around $4,000 for lung cancer care. The cost for the patient may differ from this amount depending on their coverage and deductible.
- Emerging treatments: Experimental and emerging therapies present the most unknowns when it comes to cost estimates. However, emerging treatments can be more affordable than common treatments when patients take part in clinical trials. Approved clinical trials are often government-funded and may be covered by insurance.
Costs will accumulate through initial treatment and after, if a patient receives palliative care or symptom-reducing procedures. For example, a patient may receive pleurodesis or paracentesis to drain fluid from around the lungs or abdomen.
Average Procedure Costs Paid by Mesothelioma Patients*
|Procedure||Average Hospital Cost|
|Thoracoscopic pleural biopsy||$16,575|
|Pleurectomy / decortication||$53,993|
|Other excision of pleura||$46,217|
|Drainage of pleural cavity||$16,089|
*Source: Rare Tumors
04. Other Related Costs
Unexpected and Related Mesothelioma Costs
Treatment costs are not the only expenses associated with caring for mesothelioma patients. For example, patients who receive treatment further away from home will also face travel and lodging expenses. It is important to consider these costs to avoid potential surprise and strain on the patient and their loved ones.
Other potential costs associated with mesothelioma care include:
- Cancer coaching
- Home care and nursing
- Hospice care
- Lost wages
- Mental health and therapy
- Side-effect reducing treatments
- Special diets and high-quality nutrition
Patients and caregivers should also keep in mind that medical expenses may recur and fluctuate. For example, several rounds of chemotherapy may be necessary, creating a recurring cost. End-of-life costs are also typically higher than initial care costs, which can be unexpected. In one study, the average spending for lung cancer patient end-of-life costs was estimated from $44,504 to $57,811. These costs vary based on the extent of hired care, hospice use and symptom-relief procedures. However, there are options to help cover these and other costs of treating mesothelioma.
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05. How to Pay for Treatment
How to Pay for Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Treatment
Patients may feel overwhelmed when faced with the cost of mesothelioma treatment. However, there are ways to lighten this financial burden.
Many cancer centers have resource programs that can help patients and their family members locate assistance. Cancer coaches and the patient’s care team may also be able to suggest other mesothelioma resources, such as nonprofits and charities.
Patients have multiple options available to them to deal with unplanned costs of a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Health insurance plans may cover various aspects of treatment. However, after coverage, some patients may be left with a range of potential out-of-pocket expenses.
One study examined the total cost of mesothelioma treatment versus the patient’s out-of-pocket burden. In 2017, the average cost of patient care during the first month after surgery for a 70-year-old patient was $30,096. However, of that amount, the patient was responsible for $1,738. The study also examined average costs per month for patients receiving chemotherapy, radiation or both. This cost ranged from $4,242 to $8,287 during the initial phase.
The American Cancer Society’s 2020 Costs of Cancer report also examined the annual out-of-pocket costs for an average lung cancer patient under different insurance plans. For patients on an individual marketplace plan, out-of-pocket costs (including copays, coinsurance, deductibles and premiums) totaled $12,046 annually. In contrast, those without insurance could expect to pay upwards of $140,000 annually.
Patients should consider calling their insurance provider with a list of questions to help plan costs. Common questions include:
- Do I need to get pre-approval for the treatment before I can start?
- For each of my treatments, what percentage will my insurance pay?
- Is my mesothelioma doctor in my health insurance network?
- What are my copays and deductibles?
Patients should be aware of these nuances before beginning treatment, so they can prepare ahead of time. Planning how and when to pay can help reduce stress during treatment.
Government Programs and Assistance
Mesothelioma patients may be able to receive various forms of help from the government to assist with cancer treatment costs. This includes government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Medicare: Medicare is a federal health insurance plan for individuals 65 years or older.
- Medicaid: Medicaid is a federal and state program that helps pay for medical costs for some people with limited income and resources. It also offers benefits not covered by Medicare, such as nursing home care and personal care services.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI is a federal insurance program that can provide monthly benefits to people with a medical condition that restricts their ability to seek employment.
Veterans with an asbestos illness may also be eligible for government help through Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation. Compensation amounts vary based on a patient’s disease disability rating and their number of dependents. The VA recognizes mesothelioma at a 100% disability rating. Veterans with mesothelioma may be able to receive around $3,000 monthly through VA benefits. Monthly payouts vary by year but have trended upward over the last several years.
Mesothelioma patients and other asbestos victims may be able to receive compensation. Asbestos exposure victims who develop a related disease may be eligible for compensation from asbestos trust funds, mesothelioma lawsuits and settlements.
Patients should keep a detailed record of their medical bills and associated costs. These expenses may be taken into account when determining total compensation awards and offers.
Compensation awards can help patients cover medical bills and ease the burden of lost income during treatment.
Patients and their loved ones should contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to learn more about their options. These attorneys may be able to help asbestos victims get the awards they deserve.