Breast cancer treatment can be expensive, but taking a few proactive steps can help make the cost of care more manageable.

While there’s no cure for breast cancer, early detection offers hope and provides the highest odds for treating it.

But breast cancer treatment is pricey — even with insurance. In fact, in 2020, breast cancer was the most expensive type of cancer to treat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even though it’s a tough financial hurdle, resources and support are available.

Here’s a look at various costs associated with treating breast cancer, as well as options for managing these expenses.

The direct expenses involved in treating breast cancer can quickly add up.

First and foremost, there are costs associated with diagnostic tests and procedures. Your doctor might use different tests to find and diagnose breast cancer. These can include imaging tests such as a:

  • screening mammogram
  • diagnostic mammogram
  • ultrasound
  • MRI

Most health insurance plans cover the entire cost of a screening mammogram, but they might not cover the cost of other imaging tests. Average out-of-pocket costs for these include:

  • $290 for a diagnostic mammogram
  • $250 for an ultrasound
  • $1,084 for an MRI

That said, most insurance companies have in-network imaging centers, which usually cost less out of pocket than out-of-network options.

Beyond imaging scans, you may also have to undergo a breast biopsy. This involves removing and testing a sample of breast tissue. Most insurance plans cover a breast biopsy, although you might be responsible for copays and deductibles.

Additionally, treatment appointments add to the cost. These include visits for:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation
  • hormonal therapy
  • immunotherapy
  • targeted therapies

There’s also the expense of meeting with additional healthcare professionals. For example, you might work with a psychologist who provides mental health support or a dietitian who helps manage your nutritional needs. These visits are typically covered under many insurance plans, though they may require copays.

The financial impact of breast cancer extends beyond direct medical expenses. Indirect costs can also add up during treatment.

For example, there’s the expense of traveling to and from your appointments. This factors in the cost of fuel, parking fees, or public transportation. Depending on the length of treatment, these fees can add up over time.

Additionally, you might have to request time off from work to attend doctor appointments. Taking extra time off can lead to a reduction in income, which can affect financial stability.

If you have a family, child care may become a concern. You might incur additional expenses to line up care for your children during medical visits.

You might also need to hire help for daily tasks and household responsibilities, such as:

  • grocery shopping
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • laundry

Other indirect costs include:

  • complementary therapies like acupuncture or massage
  • hair-loss-related products like wigs, scarves, and hats
  • postsurgery bras
  • fertility-preserving treatments

These indirect costs can add a huge financial burden when you’re already dealing with the emotional and physical challenges of breast cancer.

The increasing cost of insurance premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance can also become a factor during breast cancer treatment.

As medical expenses rise, you might face tough choices, such as potentially delaying or forgoing necessary treatments due to financial constraints.

The cost burden associated with out-of-pocket expenses can also impact mental health. It may exacerbate feelings of uncertainty or add an extra layer of anxiety during breast cancer treatment. This can worsen the emotional impact of your diagnosis.

Higher healthcare costs can also affect your relationships and make you feel more socially isolated. And the stress of worrying about money can interfere with your sleep and overall quality of life.

For this reason, finding ways to ease the financial stress of breast cancer treatment is important for your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Here are a few tips for managing the costs of breast cancer treatment:

1. Understand your health insurance coverage

Start by reading through your insurance policy to help you understand your exact benefits.

This includes reviewing coverage details, such as your out-of-pocket responsibility, which may include:

  • deductibles
  • copays
  • coinsurance

Familiarize yourself with the professionals covered under your plan, and then stay within your network. This can reduce your out-of-pocket expense.

2. Shop around for the best health insurance coverage

Explore different health insurance plans to find one that best suits your needs and budget.

Compare costs for:

  • premiums
  • deductibles
  • coverage

Switching plans might be an option during open enrollment periods, which can help you save money. But don’t automatically choose the lowest-priced plan.

Keep in mind that while higher deductible plans may have lower monthly premiums, you’ll usually pay more out-of-pocket before your provider pays a claim.

3. Research patient assistance programs

Many pharmaceutical companies and programs offer patient assistance to help cover the cost of prescription medications.

Ask your doctor about programs that offer either financial assistance or free medications. A few programs include:

4. Meet with a financial navigator from your treatment center

Most breast cancer treatment centers have dedicated financial navigators or counselors to guide you through the financial aspects of care. They can help you:

  • understand treatment costs
  • decipher your health insurance coverage
  • explore financial assistance programs

To find a financial navigator at a treatment center, start by reaching out to the center’s main office or administration. You can also ask your healthcare professional or patient services representative for assistance.

Additionally, you may check the center’s website or contact their helpline to be connected with a financial navigator.

5. Negotiate medical bills and payment plans

If you have high medical bills, don’t hesitate to negotiate. Many healthcare professionals are open to discussing payment plans or reduced fees. You can also ask whether there are any programs to help cover the cost of care for those in financial need and whether you might qualify.

Communicate openly about your financial situation and review options to ease the financial burden of treating breast cancer.

6. Participate in a clinical trial

If you’re looking for new treatments and want to save on costs, enrolling in a clinical trial might be an option. Start by asking your doctor if they know about any trials with open enrollment that match your needs.

You can also check online resources like, or contact local hospitals and research centers directly to ask about upcoming trials.

Participating in a clinical trial contributes toward advancing breast cancer treatment options. It also offers perks to you, like free access to up-and-coming treatments.

Breast cancer can be expensive to treat, but being proactive can help you manage costs. Start by researching patient assistance programs and understanding your insurance coverage. You may even want to consider joining a clinical trial.

Additionally, communicating openly with your healthcare team, leaning on your support system, and staying updated on resources available to you can help you stay on top of it all.