Breast cancer can bring about a range of practical issues for you to think about. From how you manage your finances, through to employment and what to do about childcare, there’s a lot to consider and organise during an already difficult time.
My main concern was how long I could stay off work without an income before losing my house. Luckily, I was OK as I was very careful and budgeted well.
Undergoing breast cancer treatment can cause financial strain and worry. While your day-to-day expenses are likely to continue, you will probably face additional costs for medical treatments and tests. If you are unable to continue paid work – or unable to work in the same capacity as before you were diagnosed – the loss of income can also contribute to financial pressure on you and your family.
If you are worried about the costs associated with treatment, you can:
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is an Australian Government scheme that subsidises the cost of some medicines. If you have a Medicare card, you will be covered by the PBS.
While most breast cancer medicines are subsidised through the PBS, some are not and so you will be required to pay the full cost of them. It is a good idea to ask your doctor if there are subsidised medicines suitable for you.
To find out if the medicines you use are covered by the PBS, visit Services Australia.
Under the PBS Safety Net, when you have paid a certain amount for prescription medicines in less than one calendar year, you will be eligible to pay less or – in some cases – nothing, for the rest of your PBS medicines for that year. Ask your pharmacist, Medicare or Centrelink how to register for the PBS Safety Net.
The Medicare Safety Net works in a similar way. Once you have paid a certain amount in medical fees, you won't have to pay as much for the rest of the year. Services that count towards the Medicare Safety Net include GP and specialist consultations, ultrasounds, scans, X-rays and blood tests.
If you are single, you do not need to register for the Medicare Safety Net, but be sure to let Medicare know if you change your address. Couples and families do need to register for the Medicare Safety Net so that your combined medical costs can contribute to your family safety net. Visit your local Medicare office, or call Medicare on 13 20 11, to register. For more information, visit Medicare.
You may find that continuing to work during your treatment helps to bring a sense of "normality" to your life. It can also help to keep you occupied during your treatment. However, you may not be strong enough to work especially if you are experiencing side effects such as fatigue or nausea.
Here are some tips for managing work while you are dealing with having breast cancer:
I returned to work one day after finishing radiotherapy. Now, looking back, I wish I had taken some time off to rest and relax.
If you have young children, child care can be a complex issue. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy involve periods in which you are immune-compromised and your treating team will advise you to avoid exposure to possible sources of infection.
Long Day Care or Family Day Care programs are not always an option when you are in treatment, because there’s a risk of your child bringing home a virus or other form of infection. In-home care may be a more appropriate option. Paying for in-home care can, unfortunately, be expensive and is often out of reach for many families.
If you have limited options for childcare, you may need some extra assistance. Services Australia provides information on accessing child care and the government financial assistance for child care, such as the Child Care Subsidy. It also explains the terms and conditions of application.
These pages provide information on:
It is so difficult sole parenting young children with little to no support. Managing the day-to-day housekeeping and cooking has been challenging.
The Child Care Subsidy provides assistance to help with the cost of child care. If you are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy, you may get extra help with the cost of approved child care through the Additional Child Care Subsidy.
For more information on the Child Care Subsidy, visit Services Australia or call 13 61 50.
Contact the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.
Use the Centrelink Payment Finder.
Visit Services Australia website.
Contact the National Debt Helpline or, to speak to a financial counsellor call, 1800 007 007.
Download the BCNA fact sheet, Managing the financial impacts of breast cancer, about the range of benefits, subsidies and services that may be available to you and your family.
Download the BCNA Financial Tracker to log associated expenses.
Call BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 for information, support, resources and referral to the services you need.
Causes of financial stress and ways to manage it.
Making decisions about work and understanding your employee rights when you are diagnosed with breast cancer is important
If you are self-employed, you may need financial advice or support to continue your business during breast cancer treatment
You may want or need to take time off work for treatment. Know your rights and what you may need to think about
It may help to share your diagnosis with business clients and contacts if you need to make changes during treatment