Managing Financial Aspects
of Cancer Care

A major part of dealing with cancer is tackling the financial aspects of care. In some cases, a cancer diagnosis can change a family’s financial situation. People with cancer and their families need to rethink their financial planning in order to accommodate costs of treatment, tests and medication. Caregivers face the additional task of managing the medical records, bills and balances. At this already stressful time, it is important to anticipate the kinds of expenses you will be faced with and find effective strategies to plan and cope.

Please note that the information mentioned below is a general guideline. The actual expenses and norms may vary greatly, depending on current condition of the patient and where you seek treatment.

Every cancer patient is unique. Typically, treatment for cancer is highly personalized in order to achieve the best clinical outcome. At private hospitals in India, there are a variety of factors that can affect the cost of treatment, including

The patient’s diagnosis and current health​

The type and frequency of diagnostic tests required

The category of room chosen by the patient (general ward, sharing room, deluxe room or suite)

The number and type of treatments required

The type of therapy, drug regimen or medicines prescribed

The number and type of surgeries and other procedures

The duration of the hospital stay

The type, brand and quantity of devices and implants used during procedures

The type of technology used


At this time, it is critical to be aware of the types of expenses you may be faced with. Here are some common
expenses associated with cancer treatment


These are usually paid prior to the consultation

Diagnostic tests and investigations

(such as blood tests, scans, genetic testing) These are usually paid after the test is done, but prior to the release of the images/report


(such as chemotherapy drugs and medicines used to treat side effects) These are usually paid for at the time of purchase


(such as room charges and service fees) These are usually paid prior to discharge


(such as daycare charges and service fees) These are usually paid prior to discharge


(such as gloves, surgical masks, sterilization supplies) These are usually paid prior to discharge


(such as implants, devices, equipment) These are usually paid prior to discharge


(such as mastectomy bras, wigs, prosthetic limbs) These are usually paid for at the time of purchase


(such as crutches, wheelchairs, special toilet seats) These are usually paid for at the time of purchase

Understanding health insurance

If you have health insurance prior to being diagnosed
It is important to have a good understanding of what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t, and manage your expenditure accordingly. Take some time to read through your insurance policy document in detail. Typically, this document will list exactly what situations and conditions you are protected against, and how much money you will be paid in each scenario. It will also include a list of what situations and conditions you are not protected against.

If an event or situation you are protected against happens, you can contact your provider to make a claim on your insurance policy. If your policy covers the specific scenario you are claiming for, your provider will give you the allocated sum of money (this is called a payout).

If you are thinking about getting health insurance after being diagnosed
If you have a medical condition prior to buying your insurance policy, insurers call this a pre-existing condition. Your policy may state that you must disclose the details of any pre-existing medical conditions to your provider. In this case, you will need to tell your provider if you have been diagnosed with cancer.

Your provider may ask you to undergo a medical examination, or answer some specific questions about your health. This can be quite distressing or upsetting for you and your family, and you may feel that your provider is being insensitive. However, it is important to remember that insurers need all the details in order to decide if they are able to offer you a policy, and how much a policy will cost.

In order to help you better prepare for your interaction with an insurance provider, we have compiled a list of questions they may ask you

  Details of any health conditions you have had in the past

  Details of your cancer diagnosis

  •   When the cancer was diagnosed
  •   The type of cancer you have been diagnosed with, and its location
  •   If the cancer has spread to any other areas of your body
  •   Your current symptoms or side effects of treatment, if any

  Details of your cancer treatment

  •   When the cancer was diagnosed
  •   The type of cancer you have been diagnosed with, and its location
  •   If the cancer has spread to any other areas of your body
  •   Your current symptoms or side effects of treatment, if any

  Details of any other health conditions you currently have

  The results of the latest tests and scans (along with documentary evidence)

  Details and frequency of your hospital visits to consult your doctor and any specialists

Some private insurance providers may not offer coverage to patients with cancer and other acute medical conditions. Other providers may offer coverage, but charge a higher premium or apply an exclusion. It is advisable to talk to multiple insurance providers before choosing the plan that is right for you and your family.

Other ways to stay prepared

Be organised with records of
appointments and bills

Your clinical team may give you a potential life expectancy time frame depending on various aspects of the disease – the type of cancer, its location, response to treatment, and several other associated factors. However, as with complex medical conditions, predicting life expectancy for patients with terminal cancer can be tough.

Explore payment channels
and credit planning

While treatment options may still be available, it is important to understand the effects they may have on the quality of life of your loved one. Having an open discussion with your clinical team can help you understand the benefits and risks of various treatment options.

Talk to your doctor about your
financial situation

It can be helpful to have a conversation with your doctor about your financial situation. In some cases, he or she may be able to prescribe less expensive alternatives to costly medicines that have the same chemical formulation.

Seek help for coping with
your emotions

The added financial stress on the cancer journey makes it an anxiety-ridden experience. If you are caring for a spouse, parent, family member or friend with cancer, there may be a lot on your mind. It can be overwhelming to manage different practical issues and responsibilities, while simultaneously managing your own emotions. It is critical to look after your own well-being during this difficult time. This section provides information on managing your own feelings and staying healthy while being a caregiver. Read more

For cancer patients below the poverty line

The Government of India has a number of schemes that offer support to cancer patients living below the poverty line, including

The Health Minister’s Cancer Patient Fund

The Health Minister’s Discretionary Grant

Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN)

Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund

National Health Protection Scheme (Ayushman Bharat)

Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (Health Insurance)

There are also specific schemes operated by each State Government which offer financial support to cancer patients. It can help to have a conversation with a medical social worker (MSW). Medical social workers are typically assigned to government hospitals, clinics, community health agencies or long-term care facilities. Prior to applying for these schemes, try to have the following documents ready with you

The scheme/grant application forms

Copy of the family income certificate

Copy of the ration card

A number of NGOs and private foundations also offer medical aid and support for cancer patients living below the poverty line.
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