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CostHelper > Health & Personal Care  > Cancer Treatments > Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy Cost


How Much Does Radiation Therapy Cost?

 
average costWith Health Insurance: Copays + 10%-50% Coinsurancehigh costWithout Health Insurance: $10,000-$50,000+
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Radiation therapy involves the use of radiation to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells by damaging their DNA. It also can damage normal cells. Side effects can include scarring, memory problems, infertility and, in some cases, development of another cancer.

Typical costs:

  • For patients covered by health insurance, out-of-pocket costs for radiation therapy typically consist of doctor visit, lab and prescription drug copays as well as coinsurance of 10%-50% for procedures and surgery. Radiation therapy typically is covered by health insurance, though some insurers might not cover certain types. For example, Aetna[1] considers proton therapy experimental for certain types of cancer, such as esophageal cancer.
  • For patients not covered by health insurance, radiation therapy can cost $10,000-$50,000 or more, depending on the type of cancer, number of treatments needed and especially the type of radiation used. Traditional external beam radiation tends to fall on the lower end of the range, while stereotactic radiosurgery -- which uses a special machine to target the tumor -- and proton therapy[2] tend to cost more.
  • Total costs typically include individualized treatment planning and any special equipment required. For example, Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center[3] in Nebraska, charges about $485 for a basic radiation therapy dose plan, $730-$1,000 for a medical physics consult, $600-$1,300 for radiation treatment aids such as special shields or casts, $490 for X-ray guidance, which uses X-rays to help the doctor target radiation delivery to the correct area, and $1,240 for CT scan guidance, which uses CT scan imaging to target radiation delivery. A study[4] in Community Oncology showed radiation treatment cost for early-stage breast cancer varied by type of radiation used, ranging from $4,500 to about $14,500. A study[5] published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that patients with prostate cancer who had traditional radiation therapy as their primary treatment had a mean cost of more than $12,000 in the first year after diagnosis. An article[6] published by the American College of Radiology states that the cost to treat prostate cancer with proton therapy radiation can reach $40,000.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery, which often is used for brain tumors or tumors that have been deemed inoperable, can cost up to $55,000 or more.
Related articles: Chemotherapy, Breast Cancer Treatment, Brain Tumor Treatment, Stereotactic Radiosurgery, Health Insurance

What should be included:
  • External beam radiation therapy[7] involves directing radiation from a machine, through the patient's body and into the cancer site. It can be used to treat many types of cancer, including breast, lung, colorectal, prostate and brain cancers. Treatment typically is done five days a week for less than an hour, and can take a total of two to nine weeks.
  • Brachytherapy[8] , also called internal radiation therapy, involves implanting radioactive material at the tumor site to deliver focused radiation. It can be used for various types of cancer, including breast, lung, uterine and head and neck cancers. Radioactive seeds can be implanted into the tumor and left there. Or, temporary brachytherapy, in which the radiation source is temporarily inserted, then withdrawn, can be done over several days or weeks.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery[9] involves targeting high, focused doses of radiation at a tumor or brain abnormality while causing minimal harm to healthy tissue. It is most commonly used for brain tumors, but also can be used for lung, liver, spine or other tumors deep in the body or close to organs. The procedure sometimes can be done in one day, but might require multiple sessions. And proton therapy[10] uses protons, which, in some cases, can provide more targeted therapy with less damage to healthy tissue.
  • RadiologyInfo.org offers information on radiation therapy for: lung cancer[11] , prostate cancer[12] , breast cancer[13] , and colorectal cancer[14] .
  • The National Cancer Institute offers an overview[15] of radiation therapy for cancer.
Additional costs:
  • Cancer patients will need regular follow-up visits and, in some cases tests, to check for recurrence. According to the National Cancer Institute[16] , patients generally need to visit a doctor every three to four months for the first two or three years, then every six months to a year. Blood tests, health.costhelper.com/mri.html>MRIs or CT scans or endoscopy might also be required. Follow-up visits can cost form under $200 to $400 or more.
Discounts:
  • Many hospitals give discounts of up to 30% or more to uninsured/cash-paying patients. For example, Washington Hospital Healthcare System[17] in California offers a 35% discount.
Shopping for radiation therapy:
  • RTAnswers.org, a site run by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, offers a radiation oncologist locator[18] .
  • The National Cancer Institute offers a guide[19] to finding a doctor or cancer treatment facility.
Material on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult your physician or pharmacist regarding medications or medical procedures.
 
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External Resources:
  1.  www.aetna.com/cpb/medical/data/200_299/0270.html
  2.  www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/proton-therapy-center/faqs/index.html...
  3.  tp.chi.acelogicus.net/nese/Default.aspx
  4.  www.oncologypractice.com/co/journal/articles/0102093.pdf
  5.  meetinglibrary.asco.org/subcategories/2009+ASCO+Annual+Meeting
  6.  www.proton-therapy.org/documents/BulletinProtonArticleAmCollegeRadMar10.pdf
  7.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ebt
  8.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=brachy
  9.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=stereotactic
  10.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=protonthera
  11.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=lungcancer
  12.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=pros_cancer
  13.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=breastcancer
  14.  www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=colorect
  15.  www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/radiation
  16.  www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment/page3
  17.  www.whhs.com/about/washington-hospital-discount-policy-for-uninsured/
  18.  www.rtanswers.org/
  19.  www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/doctor-facility
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