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Estimating Disease-Specific Medical Expenses

Getting diagnosed with a life-threatening illness raises many questions: How will it affect my quality of life? What treatment should I seek? How much will it cost?

There is a lot of information out there to help answer the first two questions. Doctors, fellow patients, books and websites all detail what it’s like to face an illness such as cancer or heart disease, as well as the most suitable types of treatment.

The third question, however — ‘how much will it cost?’ — is even more complex to digest. As a result, in addition to coping with the diagnosis, many patients also worry about whether or not they can afford treatment.

It is difficult to estimate exactly the medical expenses one will incur throughout this rigorous process. There are many variables to consider: the severity of the disease, the type of insurance, and even the region of the country where the patient resides. There are indirect costs too, such as time spent away from work.

Patients don’t have to be in the dark though. There are ways to better grasp what expenses to anticipate in order to plan ahead and avoid “financial toxicity” — that is, financial stress brought on by the costs associated with cancer and other diseases.

Here is a look at some of the rough costs associated with life-threating illnesses, along with helpful tools to learn more:


There are more than 200 types of cancer, so pinpointing an exact cost is difficult. AARP reports that average costs for treatment run in the $150,000 range. This figure can vary greatly, however, depending on specific treatments and whether or not they are covered by insurance.

The Mayo Clinic also has a medical expense estimation tool available online at Patients can input information like type of procedure, geography, and type of insurance to receive an approximate cost. For example, a partial lung removal surgery (a treatment option for lung cancer, one of the 10 most common cancers) is typically between $55,000 – $74,000 without insurance. The cost for a one-hour chemotherapy infusion may be about $650 without insurance.

Heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. “The average total cost of a severe heart attack — including direct and indirect costs — is about $1 million,” reports CBS News. “Direct costs include charges for hospitals, doctors and prescription drugs, while the indirect costs include lost productivity and time away from work.”

According to the Mayo Clinic’s estimation tool, bypass surgery — which replaces damaged arteries — might cost between $99,000 – $234,000 without insurance.


ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, affects about 17,000 people in the United States. Treatment for the disease can entail medicine like Edaravone, or physical and occupational therapy, reports the Mayo Clinic. These approaches can carry a large price tag – a one-year course of Edaravone “will cost about $145,000 before discounts to governments or insurance companies are included,” Forbes recently wrote. Occupational therapy can range anywhere from $50 to $500 an hour, estimates Cost Helper.

All major expenses deserve planning, and one’s health is no exception. For those facing an advanced-stage illness, Fifth Season Financial is here to help. Our Funds for Living Program provides clients with an advance on their life insurance policy while preserving funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future. To learn more about the program, contact us today.

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