Real Cost of Cancer

Cancer patients and their families face a financial crisis while they are going through their treatment, according to the results of a report published based on research we commissioned called ‘The Real Cost of Cancer’.

Take our survey on the Real Cost of Cancer

The Irish Cancer Society knows that a cancer diagnosis comes with massive additional costs. We are running our second Real Cost of Cancer survey and want to hear about how these costs are affecting families and individuals.

Whether you are a newly diagnosed patient, a cancer survivor or a family member of someone with cancer, participating will help the Irish Cancer Society identify what supports cancer patients need from Government, employers, the HSE and the National Cancer Control Programme.

This is vital information to advocate for change that will reduce the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis.

Visit to have your voice heard.

About the Real Cost of Cancer

A large number of patients face a severe drop in income while at the same time running up extra bills on a range of items such as home heating, parking, childcare, travel, prescription charges, hospital stays, over-the-counter drugs, consultant visits, dental care, physiotherapy as well as clothing and personal care.

The average extra spend per month for a cancer patient is €862, even for patients with a medical card or private health insurance, according to the survey.

Those who cannot work, work less or lose income as a result of having cancer face an income drop averaging €1,400 a month, or €16,750 per year.

See our infographic on the main findings of the research.

Download the report on the Real Cost of Cancer.

Overview of Real Cost of Cancer research findings


Specific average costs on medical care per month include:

  • €303 spent on medical costs that cannot be claimed back. They include things like over-the-counter medication, hospital stays, specialist dressings and GP visits. These costs affect 77% of cancer patients;

  • Four out of five cancer patients pay an additional €69 to cover the medication they need to manage the side effects of their treatment (for example, fatigue and nausea).

Specific average costs on day-to-day household expenses per month include:

  • €226 on increase in childcare costs as a result of not being able to care for dependents;

  • €153 on increased food and drink expenses because of the time being spent out of the home;

  • €140 on increased heating and electricity bills (chemotherapy patients often feel the cold worse than people not going through treatment);

  • €99 on additional domestic support;

  • €53 on increased phone bills.

Specific average costs on travel expenses per month include:

  • €166 on traveling to and from appointments;

  • €62 on hospital parking;

  • €179 on other costs associated with appointments.

On average, one off purchases cost cancer patients:

  • €891 to modify their home;

  • €653 on dental work and care;

  • €511 on wigs and hair pieces;

  • €215 on specialist equipment for the home (example, a commode);

  • €704 on ‘other’ one-off costs.

Loss of income

In almost all cases, cancer patients are working less as a result of having cancer. Many have either retired or become unemployed.

  • 60% of cancer patients are on a reduced level of income since they were diagnosed;

  • The reduction on average is €16,785 per annum or €1,400 per month.

Are you affected by the real cost of cancer?

See our information about financial and travel supports. We also have a free information service for patients who need to know what supports are available.

See our booklet ‘Managing the Financial Impact of Cancer’ or call the Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700 or drop into one of our Daffodil Centres, located in hospitals nationwide.

Cancer patients share their stories

We travelled around the country talking to cancer patients, survivors and their families about the Real Cost of Cancer. Watch their stories.

Patricia Dempsey talks about how her cancer diagnosis impacted on her income:

Una Black talks about how her husband’s cancer diagnosis had a significant effect on both their incomes:

Kellie Dean talks about how the small costs around treatment ad up to less money in your pocket:

John Langton talks about how cancer impacted him as a self-employed professional:

Call our Cancer Nurseline If you are affected by cancer and have financial worries, please call the Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Tuesday, May 21, 2019