Research Shows Blood Cancer is More Costly for Patients than Other Cancers

A recent study has shown that the cost of treating blood cancers can be more costly than treating other solid tumor cancers.1 A study commissioned by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) found that patients who have blood cancers spend more money on the treatment of their cancers, and that their healthcare spending does not typically return to their pre-cancer levels. The LLS followed 2,332 blood cancer patients who were diagnosed in 2014 through the end of 2016 to find out the cost of their healthcare (both through insurance and their out of pocket expenses).

Expensive first year of treatment

The highest costs typically occur in the first month immediately after diagnosis. These costs vary by diagnosis, but pediatric patients tend to have the highest costs and pediatric patients with acute leukemia are the highest of these. The cost of treatment in the first month of diagnosis ranges from approximately $12,000 for patients with chronic leukemia, to just under $120,000 for a pediatric acute leukemia patient.

The average cost of treating blood cancer is over $150,000 in the first year. Acute leukemia patients have the highest expenses across all age ranges. These patients can cost an average of almost $450,000 in their first year and over $800,00 over three years. Patients with Multiple Myeloma also cost over average at just over $200,000 in the first year.

Out of pocket expenses

Patients’ out of pocket (OOP) expenses average just under $4000 in the first year, with acute leukemia costing the most at just over $5000 in the first year. These costs vary depending on a patient’s insurance plan, with patients who have high-deductible insurances paying almost double OOP than those with traditional HMO or PPO plans. Most patients will also see a spike in costs at the beginning of the year when their insurance deductible resets. Patients who seek out of network physicians, hospitals, and other professional services will also have higher OOP expenses, as insurances don’t pay as much toward these visits.

For acute leukemia and multiple myeloma patients, the greatest cost in the first year of therapy comes from inpatient hospital stays. This is especially costly in the first month of diagnosis, averaging up to 55% of the cost of treatment. After the initial inpatient stay, the cost of anti-cancer drug therapy, including chemotherapy and biological agents, has the highest cost burden. Chemotherapy and biological agents average about one third of the total cost of blood cancer treatment. Radiation oncology can also be a large part of treatment expenses. The greatest cost in the first year of chronic leukemia and bone marrow disorders are from outpatient visits including treatment.

Searching for affordable care

Bone marrow and stem cell transplants account for about one quarter of the total cost of treatment, especially in the first and second year of treatment. These transplants can be especially costly as they usually involve chemotherapy and inpatient stays. (It is important to note that this data was collected from 2014 to 2016 and does not include data about the cost of the newer CAR-T cell therapies, which had not been FDA approved while this research was done.)

This data was collected by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to help gather information about the cost of treating blood cancers. The goal is to use this information to figure out ways to reduce the cost burden for patients, either by using it to change health care policies, or by using the information to change insurance policies. Hopefully, this information will help lower the cost of treatment for future blood cancer patients.


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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