The Average Cost of Chemotherapy


Costs of chemotherapy vary considerably, based on a large number of factors. Not only are a wide range of drugs used in various kinds of chemotherapy, each with their own prices, but the costs of these drugs can differ from location to location. Hospitals and clinics may also add to the price, which can change based on the regularity of treatments and whether people come in for their treatments or have a nurse come to their homes or offices to administer the chemotherapy.


  • Chemotherapy is a chemical-based treatment for various types of cancer that seeks to destroy cancer cells with toxic substances without harming the patient. The toxic chemicals used in chemotherapy usually have a detrimental and sometimes severely debilitating effect on patients, but the goal is always to preserve patient health while reducing and eliminating cancerous elements from the body. Most of the chemicals also attack other, healthy cells in the body that are similar to the fast-growing cancer cells, including hair cells, which is why people undergoing chemotherapy usually lose their hair. Many health insurance policies include at least some sort of coverage for chemotherapy, reducing the cost significantly for the patient.

Associated Cost Organizations

  • The cost of chemotherapy should not be reduced to drugs alone. Since location is also a factor in price, transportation organizations sometimes add their own costs, which the hospitals generally carry over to the patient. Hospital fees and service fees associated with the administration of the drugs and the patient care needed afterward must also be calculated, and these differ from place to place.

Average Costs

  • Given the many factors, the actual cost of chemotherapy tends to vary considerably. However, the prices of traditional chemotherapy drugs tend to range from $300 to $800 for about an eight-week course of treatment, although some of the more insured medications (medication only) may be as low as $100. These include common drugs such as 5-FU and leucovorin. According information released by the National Cancer Institute in January 2009, 10 years worth of treatments for breast cancer (which may be intermittent) cost an average of $21,000, while prostate and lung cancer hovered around $40,000.

New Drugs

  • The average prices of drugs do not always reflect chemotherapy costs because new drugs are constantly being developed, and these drugs often cost much more than older, more common chemotherapy treatments. These newer drugs, like oxaliplatin and irinotecan, can cost $10,000 or more for a course of treatment, according to


  • A number of people claim that the increase in chemotherapy prices, especially with the new drugs, are unfair. There is a school of thought that claims, as consumer health advocate Mike Adams with American Society of Clinical Oncology says, these price increases are unnecessary and reflect the greed and carelessness of the pharmaceutical industry, which puts unnecessarily high prices on cancer drugs. This viewpoint is also supported by organizations such as On the other side, supporters of chemotherapy drugs point out that pharmaceutical companies are involved in many programs that offer to pay for or provide chemotherapy for patients who are not normally able to afford the treatment.


  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of liz west
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