Breast cancer affects you emotionally and physically, but it can also impact you financially. This can come as a surprise to some women and their families. There may be unexpected expenses or you may experience a loss of income if you have to take time off from work. Depending on your situation, there are resources available that may help you cope with financial challenges that you may face.

Do I need to pay for any of my treatments?

Your provincial health plan pays for the costs of surgery, radiation, and any cancer drugs administered in a hospital or cancer centre. If you are participating in a clinical study, those specific medications are also covered. If you are prescribed hormonal treatment you will have to pay the costs of these drugs.

If you have private health insurance, a portion of the drug costs you are responsible for may be covered. It’s important to check the details of your coverage. You may need to pay a deductible or co-payment – there may also be a cap on the total amount you can claim.

Many provinces have programs that help with the costs of drugs for seniors or low-income individuals. Some pharmaceutical companies may also have patient assistance programs to help cover costs of their cancer drugs.

What other costs might I be responsible for?

Treatment for breast cancer may involve additional direct and indirect costs beyond those covered by your provincial health care plan. Some other costs that might impact you include:

  • Transportation to and from the hospital or center where you are receiving treatment
  • Child care
  • Home care
  • Wigs
  • Breast prostheses & specialty bras
  • Anti-nausea medication for chemotherapy
  • Home nursing care

If you have supplemental health insurance, many of the additional costs you might face may be covered. However, the level and duration of such coverage varies greatly from policy to policy, so you will need to carefully check your policy. There are also organizations and programs that can help you with some of these costs. Contact our Breast Cancer Support & Information Team at 1-888-778-3100 to get help locating these resources.

Are there any government programs that can help me if I’m unable to work?

If you are looking for temporary income support, the government’s Benefits Finder can help connect you with appropriate programs and services.

Programs include the following:

Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit (EI)

Employment Insurance (EI) provides Sickness Benefits to individuals who are unable to work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine. Generally you need to have worked 600 insured hours in the last 52 weeks and prove that your earnings reduced by 40% to quality for sickness benefits.

Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits

Employment Insurance (EI) provides Compassionate Care Benefits to persons who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill with a significant risk of death.

Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits (CPP)

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefit is a taxable monthly payment that is available to people who have contributed to the CPP and who are not able to work regularly at any job because of a disability.

Are there other sources of financial assistance available to breast cancer patients?

The Kelly Shires Foundation  and the Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund are two national charities whose mission is to provide financial assistance for breast cancer patients who do not have the financial resources to cover their basic living costs, as well as medical and additional expenses related to their treatment.

There may be other sources of financial assistance available to you. Our Breast Cancer Support & Information Team can help you find out what options may be available to you. Call us at 1-888-778-3100.

Can I get life and travel insurance after a breast cancer diagnosis?

Life insurance may be available for those with a cancer diagnosis, but premiums may be higher and you may have to meet certain conditions (such as being a number of years out of treatment)

If you took out a life insurance policy before you were diagnosed as having cancer, your insurance company cannot – by law – cancel the policy.

Travel insurance is available for those with a cancer diagnosis but will usually not cover any cancer-related issues.

OmbudService for Life & Health Insurance (OLHI) operates a bilingual information service (1-800-268-8099) to answer your questions about life and health insurance products.

Can I get help in travelling to and from treatment or appointments?

If you are looking for transportation assistance in getting to medical appointments either locally or out of town, there may be volunteer driver programs in your community that may be available to help you, such as the Canadian Cancer Society’s Volunteer Driver Program (1-888-939-3333).

Hope Air is a volunteer organization that flies patients for out-of-town treatments. Either through their own licensed volunteer pilots or with seats donated by commercial airlines and corporations, Hope Air’s service is primarily within Canada but flights to the U.S. may also be possible.

If your medical treatment is not available locally (within 40 km) and you must travel to get treatment elsewhere, you may be able to claim the cost of public transportation (e.g., taxi, bus, or train) to get the treatment somewhere else on your income tax return. If public transportation is not readily available, you can claim vehicle expenses to get treatment. If you have to travel more than 80 km for treatment, you may also be able to claim the cost of your meals and accommodations. You can also claim travel expenses for someone to accompany you if a doctor certifies in writing that you’re unable to travel without assistance.

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Canadian Cancer Society