Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment

Treatment for any type of cancer is expensive but well worth the investment. The cost of mesothelioma treatment is different for surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. It's also different depending on the cancer center and whether or not you have health insurance.

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Written by Jenna Campagna, RN

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Important Facts About Mesothelioma Treatment Costs

  • Each medical provider (hospital or manufacturer) may have different costs for one particular mesothelioma treatment.
  • The different mesothelioma surgeries have different costs, with more aggressive operations costing more.
  • Patients will not need to pay the full cost of treatment, especially if they have health insurance and seek legal compensation. This can reduce, or eliminate, the massive cost of mesothelioma treatment to a more manageable amount for patients and their families.

What Is the Average Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment?

According to the online publisher Rare Tumors, the average cost of mesothelioma treatment in the United States is around $24,000 per hospitalization. This amount is based on an analysis of medical care in 2014.

The cost of mesothelioma treatment increases substantially if the patient has surgery. If no surgery is involved, the cost is around $13,000 on average. Younger patients have a higher average cost than older patients, likely due to eligibility for surgery.

The location of the hospital also affects costs. Rare Tumors reported the cost of treatment in the northeast region is higher than others:

  • Around $33,000 per patient in the northeast
  • Around $18,000 per patient in the midwest

Patients shouldn’t have to pay the full cost of mesothelioma treatment. Health insurance can cover a large portion of the bill, and medical providers often adjust the cost to lower the patient’s financial responsibility. Other assistance comes from legal claims and nonprofit organizations.

Most hospitals and therapeutic manufacturers don’t make cancer treatment costs public. All published data on this page is from scientific journals and articles.

Cost of Each Mesothelioma Treatment

The main types of mesothelioma treatment are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and tumor treating fields. The prices listed are estimates or averages based on scientific and medical reports. Your mesothelioma cancer center may have a different price for a treatment option.

Cost of Mesothelioma Surgery

Surgery is the most expensive medical treatment for mesothelioma. There are three aggressive surgeries for this cancer:

Other surgeries are palliative options to relieve pain and symptoms. They mostly drain fluid from the cavities where mesothelioma forms.

According to reports from Rare Tumors, Annals of Surgical Oncology and The New York Times, the approximated cost of each surgery is:

  • $62,000 for EPP
  • $54,000 for P/D
  • $20,000 for cytoreduction with HIPEC
  • $16,000 for fluid drainage

Cost of Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

Cisplatin and pemetrexed are the FDA-approved chemotherapy drugs for malignant mesothelioma. Rare Tumors reports the cost of cisplatin and pemetrexed together is approximately $38,000.

This cost covers six cycles: one cycle every three weeks. The cost per cycle is approximately $6,300.

Cost of Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy

The Rare Tumors analysis estimates mesothelioma radiation to cost $9,000 per patient. This is based on the cost of radiation therapy for lung cancer patients.

The Journal of Oncology Practice affirms that lung cancer radiation therapy costs $9,000 per patient. Mesothelioma forms near the lungs and can spread to these organs. This amount provides a frame of reference for mesothelioma costs.

Cost of Mesothelioma Immunotherapy

The FDA approved Opdivo and Yervoy for malignant pleural mesothelioma. These two immunotherapy drugs are checkpoint inhibitors. Opdivo is the brand name for nivolumab, and Yervoy is the brand name for ipilimumab.

According to a report in Reuters, the annual cost of Opdivo and Yervoy for a patient is around $250,000. That is roughly $21,000 per month.

Other mesothelioma immunotherapy may cost less, but they aren’t approved to the degree of Opdivo and Yervoy.

Cost of Tumor Treating Fields for Mesothelioma

Tumor treating fields involve wearing a device that sends electrical currents through the body. The FDA approved a tumor treating fields device for mesothelioma called Optune Lua.

Optune Lua is billed as “durable medical equipment” (DME), similar to an insulin pump. According to the University of North Carolina Department of Neurosurgery, a similar device called just “Optune” for brain cancer and spinal cord cancer costs $21,000 per month.

It’s unclear how much Optune Lua costs for mesothelioma patients. The manufacturer, Novocure, said it works with the insurance provider for patient reimbursement.

Additional Mesothelioma Treatment Costs

In addition to general treatment, mesothelioma requires many tests and checkups to ensure the best life expectancy possible. Patients may incur travel, caregiver and lost-wage expenses. Knowing the expenses to expect can help patients and families stay one step ahead.

Travel is often underestimated as an expense. The rarity of mesothelioma means there are fewer specialists treating this disease compared to more common cancers. Most patients travel for treatment.

Travel-related expenses include:

  • Flights
  • Hotels
  • Car rentals
  • Meals

Health Insurance Options

There are many health insurance plans available. The two types are public health insurance (Medicare or Medicaid) and private health insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Health Care, etc.). Each has its own stipulations for covering aspects of treatment.

It is important to be knowledgeable of your medical insurance plan and understand your deductible, out-of-pocket maximum, in-network providers and more. You should also keep track of medical records and bills to ensure you receive appropriate insurance coverage.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Health insurance likely won’t cover all costs of mesothelioma treatment. Most people have a deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, which leads to at least a few thousands of dollars in medical bills.

This means patients and families must plan for out-of-pocket expenses. Copayments, coinsurance and deductibles are all terms referring to out-of-pocket costs for medical care.

Here are some questions to ask your doctor or insurance provider about expenses:

  • How much will my health insurance cover?
  • Which treatments will my health insurance cover?
  • What is my copay after my deductible?
  • What is my out-of-pocket maximum?
  • How can I get help paying for this treatment?
  • What can I expect in out-of-pocket expenses for mesothelioma treatment?

Options to Help Pay for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma costs vary with each patient and where they are in the treatment process. In general, the cost of fighting this cancer reaches the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. Most patients don’t have that much money available in their savings or retirement accounts.

Mesothelioma patient advocates can advise how to manage treatment costs. They are aware of resources specifically designed to help lower treatment costs.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials offer unique treatments for mesothelioma patients, and they can offset treatment costs. Since these trials are experimental, the cost of the procedures and medications being tested are typically covered or reduced.

Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Mesothelioma lawsuits put the financial responsibility on the asbestos manufacturer, which is where it should be. Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, and corporations exposed workers, consumers and others to asbestos while knowing it was dangerous.

Lawsuits can cover the costs of treatment, a justifiable result of a preventable cancer. The Rare Tumors report lists financial recoveries from mesothelioma claims to cover treatment costs. A few of them are:

  • $113,000 to a flooring installer
  • $114,000 to a plumber
  • $147,000 to an aluminum worker
  • $170,000 to the grandchild of an insulator (secondhand exposure case)
  • $325,000 to a janitor
  • $360,000 to a construction worker
  • $394,000 to a shipbuilder
  • $545,000 to a Navy veteran and boiler technician
  • $547,000 to the wife of a plant worker (secondhand exposure case)
  • $900,000 to an automobile mechanic

Asbestos Trust Funds

Asbestos trust funds are quick compensation options for mesothelioma patients. When asbestos corporations file for bankruptcy to avoid lawsuits, they must establish trust fund bank accounts.

These accounts send funds to patients who were exposed to asbestos by the bankrupt company. The recovery amount per trust fund payment is usually less than a lawsuit settlement. However, patients can file with multiple funds to accumulate enough compensation to cover medical bills.

Veterans Affairs

Veterans make up the largest group of people with mesothelioma. The military used asbestos in large quantities for decades.

Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes mesothelioma as a service-related disease. The VA offers monthly compensation to patients with mesothelioma.

Free VA health care is for specific veterans with mesothelioma, and this health insurance may cover all mesothelioma treatment costs. Speak with our VA expert for help filing VA claims or seeking VA health care.

Charitable Organizations

There are many nonprofit organizations and charitable foundations designated to help cancer patients afford treatment. For instance, some hospitals offer reduced-cost housing for family members. A few organizations offer free flights for cancer patients.

Airbnb started a housing assistance program in 2019 for cancer patients and caregivers. It’s called Open Homes for Medical Stays.

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Treatment Costs

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How much does mesothelioma treatment cost?

The cost of mesothelioma treatment varies for each type of treatment, the hospital and the patient’s insurance plan. The average cost, according to one report, is around $24,000 per hospitalization. Surgery can cost up to $60,000 per patient and chemotherapy can cost $38,000.

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Does health insurance cover mesothelioma treatment?

The level of health care coverage dictates which out-of-pocket expenses for patients. After hitting their deductible, most patients have a copay until they hit an out-of-pocket maximum. Some treatment options aren’t covered by insurance, though.

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What are ways to reduce the cost of mesothelioma treatment?

Legal claims can help cover the cost of treatment. Patients can file mesothelioma lawsuits and asbestos trust fund claims against the companies responsible for asbestos exposure. Other financial resources are:

  • Travel grants
  • Housing programs
  • Clinical trials
  • VA benefits (if the patient is a veteran)

Sources & Author

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About the Writer, Jenna Campagna, RN

Jenna Campagna is a registered nurse and patient advocate who is passionate about helping mesothelioma patients navigate their health care. She has over seven years of experience working with patients diagnosed with rare diseases including mesothelioma. Jenna is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators and her goal is to connect patients to top mesothelioma specialists, treatment facilities, and clinical trials. Through her writing, she aims to simplify the complicated journey through mesothelioma by offering helpful tips and advice.