A family whose loved one receives a mesothelioma diagnosis suffers immense emotional trauma. The disease is deadly, and victims often do not live for more than a year.
While much has been written about the emotional toll this condition takes on those it impacts, less has been said about the medical costs associated with the disease.
For many families, the high cost of treatment proves equally devastating. In total, a family could incur a price tag for a mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment upwards of a quarter to a half of a million dollars.
While insurance will often cover some of the costs, one study by the Washington National Institute for Wellness Solutions discovered that 62% of those impacted by cancer ended up with debt as a result of their treatment.
Those Most Impacted May Have the Least Ability to Pay
Because of the long latency period of the disease (20-50 years) — which is caused by exposure to lethal asbestos — those diagnosed are often older. Tradesmen and veterans rank as the most vulnerable to the disease because of the high use of asbestos in building products and the military in the early 20th century.
What this means is many of the families impacted may be retired and on a fixed income. In some cases, a widow may be left with exorbitant medical bills and no way to pay them.
How Do the Costs Break Down?
The following provides estimated costs for mesothelioma treatment to demonstrate the huge financial burden placed on families affected by this devastating disease.
These are averages and do not reflect any one patient or geographical area. Medical services for individuals vary greatly from person to person and from medical provider to medical provider.
- $75 = First Doctor Visit: Because of the onset of symptoms such as persistent cough, difficulty breathing, and chest pain
- $600 = Chest X-Ray: Taken to look for pleural effusion, a fluid build-up in the lungs
- $3,000 = Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan of the Chest: Determines the exact location and stage of cancer; oral contrast outlines intestines and indicates tumors
- $75 = Follow-Up Doctor Visit: CT scan results are discussed; a thoracentesis to remove the fluid in the lungs is scheduled
- $2,250 = Thoracentesis: Fluid is removed from the lungs and sent to the lab; fluid extraction helps the patient breathe better
- $600 = Follow-Up Chest X-Ray: To determine the success of thoracentesis
- $73,000 = Video-Assisted Thoracoscopy (VAT) with Biopsy: Provides more specific data by removing a sample of lung tissue
- $600 = Repeat Chest X-Ray: Taken to check for pleural effusion which might require a second thoracentesis
- $2,250 = Repeat Thoracentesis: Remove fluid in the lungs so the patient can breathe more easily
- $600 = Follow-Up Chest X-Ray: Recheck of lungs after thoracentesis
- $75 = Follow-Up Doctor’s Visit: The patient’s symptoms worsen, including persistent coughing and chest pain
- $600 = Additional Chest X-Ray (if necessary): Recheck of the lungs which might indicate continued pleural effusions causing the doctor to recommend a tube thoracostomy placement procedure
- $4,500 = Tube Thoracostomy: A tube is inserted into the pleural cavity to drain fluid from the lungs
- $600 = Additional Chest X-Ray (if necessary): Performed to check the results of thoracostomy; masses in the lung are clearly shown
- $3,000 = Additional CT Scan: To recheck tumors, location of masses, and stage of cancer
- $400 = Specialist Doctor Visit: The patient meets with a specialist to discuss a treatment plan and to schedule a biopsy of the mass found in the lung
- $73,000 = VAT with Biopsy: VAT surgery is performed again to remove lung tissue for biopsy
- $500 = Multiple X-Rays: Many different X-rays are taken of the chest to determine the status of the pleural effusion and determine the stability of the patient
- $500 = Consultation with Oncologist: The patient meets with a doctor who specializes in cancer to determine a treatment plan
- $5,000 = Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan: Determines the stage of cancer; radioactive glucose is injected into the bloodstream allowing clarity of the tumors
- $10,000 = Chemotherapy: Used to kill cancer cells and may include the drugs Alimta, Gemcitabine, Cisplatin Power, and Carboplatin; the cost of the treatment depends on frequency and regimen
- $100 = Vitamin B12 Injection: To combat the impacts of chemotherapy, which depletes B12 causing shortness of breath and fatigue
- $100 = Follow-Up Labs: Blood count tests (CBC) are performed after each chemotherapy session to monitor the patient’s general health
- $1,000 Monthly = Aloxi Prescription Charges: A drug used to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy
- $6,000 Monthly = Neulasta Prescription Charges: A drug used to treat neutropenia (lack of white blood cells) caused by chemotherapy
- $150 = Repeat B12 Injection: Used to help with patient health during treatment
- $2,250 = Fluid Drains: Used to keep fluid out of the chest as cancer progresses
- $2,000/Night Average = Possible Inpatient Hospitalization: May be necessary at differing points in the illness depending on the patient’s health, including nutrition status
- $25 for 100 Pills = Oxycodone Prescription Charges: Used to manage pain; it may increase as the disease progresses or be combined with other drugs
Beyond these overwhelming costs, other procedures may be necessary. These procedures may include a $5,000 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan in the chest, an $800 echocardiogram, or a pneumonectomy, which involves partial lung removal and requires a hospital stay ($250,000).
Billion Dollar Trusts Set Up to Help Those Harmed
Even with insurance, deductibles and co-pays of these costs could eat up life savings and fixed monthly incomes of mesothelioma sufferers.
As if the emotional devastation isn’t enough with this tragic disease, the financial ruin it can bring upon its victims magnifies the damage.
Those who can prove through litigation that there was negligence related to their asbestos exposure may be able to receive assistance through court-ordered awards.
Manufacturers who irresponsibly used asbestos in their products — and therefore placed their employees in danger of contracting an asbestos-related disease — have set aside an estimated $30 Billion in court-ordered trusts to pay these claims.