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The financial impact of breast cancer

A diagnosis of breast cancer should not mean financial hardship but for many Australian women this is unfortunately the case.

For nearly 20 years BCNA has heard from women about the financial impact of their breast cancer diagnosis on them and their families. They have told us their out-of-pocket costs are sometimes significant, particularly for women who choose to have their treatment in the private health system using private health insurance.

To explore this issue BCNA commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to survey its members about the out-of-pocket costs of their breast cancer treatment and care, and other associated costs. The survey aimed to quantify the out-of-pocket costs faced by a woman in the first five years after a breast cancer diagnosis. Almost 2,000 survey responses were received.

Our report shows that there is a large disparity across the country in the out-of-pocket costs women face following a breast cancer diagnosis. While some women (12 per cent) reported no out-of-pocket costs, one quarter (25 per cent) of all women who completed our survey reported costs of more than $17,200.

Total costs for women with private health insurance are higher than for women without. One quarter of privately insured women reported out-of-pocket costs greater than $21,000.

These figures do not reflect any loss of income that a woman may have if she has to reduce work hours, or give up work altogether, during treatment and beyond. If lost income had been included these figures would have been higher.

We know breast cancer can push women, and their families, to the financial brink, leaving them reliant on financial assistance from family, friends and their communities. By shining a light on the financial impact of breast cancer this report shows us some practical ways that we can make a difference. BCNA will use this report to start conversations with governments, private health insurance companies, health professionals and other cancer organisations about ways we can work together to help reduce the financial impact of breast cancer.

Christie’s story

 The instability of not knowing is probably the biggest thing, which then leads to the anxiety and the stress.

Living with metastatic breast cancer has presented Christie and her family with different financial challenges to those she experienced following her earlier breast cancer because of the unpredictability of metastatic disease.

Read more about Christie’s story.

Kylie’s story

Some sort of free, independent advice would have been enormously helpful.

Dedicated to her role with the police, but potentially planning a career change in the future, Kylie was preparing to take some leave to study for her Masters of Business Administration (MBA). Her plans were put on hold when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2015.

Read more about Kylie’s story.

Karen’s story

I’ve always been a very independent person and now I’m totally dependent on my hubby. Breast cancer took my independence away. Freedom I suppose, my freedom.

Karen was her household’s primary breadwinner. The family was on a tight budget: they had a mortgage to pay and their two boys were active in sport, which took up a large proportion of the family budget. She and her husband, who also worked, had a plan for their financial future when she received her diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. Her diagnosis changed everything.  

Read more about Karen’s story.

Case studies

Read stories of how breast cancer has impacted women financially by clicking the images below. 

Financial impact case study participant Danette holding her dog  Financial impact case study participant Marie sitting at a cafe with a takeaway coffee in hand Financial impact case study participant Georgie with her dog
Financial impact case study participant Helen clutching a photo  Financial impact case study participant Lisa Financial impact case study participant Susan stretching
Financial impact case study participant Penny  Financial impact case study participant Lynne Financial impact case study participant Ruth
Financial impact case study participant Louise Financial impact case study participant Farrah Financial impact case study participant Jill

For more information