Partridge: Cancer Treatment Huge Expense

Nancy Patridge participating in this year’s Relay for Life. Photo by John McHale/

Los Alamos

One event down, two to go.

The recent Relay for Life event in Los Alamos on the Canyon Rim Trail. I walked 18 miles and tried out my new wings and some gear for the big walk in September.

In a few weeks I’ll walk the 60-mile, three-day Susan G. Komen event in Seattle. And three weeks after that will be the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Santa Fe.

It’s been a long training season, 24 weeks of walking. More importantly, 24 weeks of fundraising (total so far is about $4,500 – nowhere near enough). It’s a pretty big chunk out of a 52-week year.

At times, it gets very tiring. Trying to fundraise, train, work, spend time with my dogs, keep up the housework and have some semblance of a social life. I admit that I did skip one or two training walks and a couple of social obligations in favor of soaking my aching muscles or getting some rest.

But the thing is – this was all my choice.
Having cancer is not a choice. And cancer patients are given no choice when it comes to paying the medical bills.

Cancer treatment is expensive. A study published in BMC Cancer found that the average total cost of care was about $128,500 for women with metastatic breast cancer receiving chemotherapy as their primary treatment (Some have reported treatment costs in the $300,000 range).

A study of 1,000 breast cancer patients conducted by the Pink Fund found that women are paying for treatment from their retirement funds, on credit cards, by reducing spending on food and clothing, increasing their work hours while they are ill, mortgaging their house and selling their car. In addition they apply for grants, take out loans, start gofundme campaigns, and borrow money from family and friends.

Because they have no choice.

A research study at University of North Carolina found that uninsured cancer patients often pay anywhere from two to 43 times what Medicare would pay for chemotherapy, as well as higher rates for physician visits.

People with cancer are 2 ½ times more likely to declare bankruptcy than healthy people. Many people with insurance go bankrupt trying to pay the co-pays for:

  • Provider visits
  • Lab tests (blood tests, urine tests, and more, which are usually billed separately)
  • Clinic visits for treatments
  • Procedures (for diagnosis or treatment, which can include room charges, equipment, different doctors, and more)
  • Imaging tests (x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, which may mean separate bills for radiologist fees, equipment, and any medicines used for the test)
  • Radiation treatments (implants, external radiation, or both)
  • Drug costs (11 of the 12 cancer drugs that the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2012 were priced at more than $100,000 per year)
  • Chemotherapy can cost about $10,000-$100,000 or more, depending on the drugs, the method of administration and the length or number of treatments.
  • Hospital stays (which can include many types of costs such as drugs, tests, and procedures as well as nursing care, doctor visits, and consults with specialists). The costs vary dramatically from hospital to hospital, depending on whether they are for-profit, non-profit, a government-run public hospital or a university teaching facility.
  • Surgery (surgeon, anesthesiologist, pathologist, operating room fees, equipment, medicines, and more). A mastectomy followed by radiation costs $15,000-$50,000 or more while a less invasive lumpectomy runs $17,000 to $35,000.
  • Home care (equipment, drugs, visits from specially trained nurses, and more)

Treatment is expensive, and cancer doesn’t give you a choice.  This is why I make the choice to spend half the year raising funds and training to walk in fundraising events.

About the author: Nancy Partridge is a native of Los Alamos.

She learned to walk about a year after being born at Los Alamos Medical Center.

If you are interested in donating funds for breast cancer research and treatment go to: (Susan G Komen 3-Day 60-mile walk Sept. 14 in Seattle – 17); or (Avon & American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Oct. 6 in Santa Fe.

Scene from the 2018 Los Alamos Relay For Life event at Smith’s Marketplace that included walking along Canyon Rim Trail. Photo by John McHale/