The Cost of Cancer Care

By Tami Boehmer

I am fortunate to be a patient at Indiana University Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. I first traveled there to get a second opinion – well actually my third – from Dr. George Sledge, one of the premier breast cancer oncologists in the country. He is the president of the American Association of Clinical oncologists and has been the keynote speaker at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and other important conferences.

I’m here, not because I don’t trust my doctor, but to make sure I know every medical option available to me.  This place is really beautiful! They just built it this year, and I can tell there is money pouring into this place.

A year ago, I spoke to a group of women at a Section 8 senior housing complex on breast cancer awareness. One of the things I stressed is to not be afraid to question doctors and to get second opinions. I thought this was important since older adults are often intimidated and awed by doctors in their authoritative positions. I also stressed the importance of diet, exercise, spirituality and other holistic ways they can take care of themselves. I also shared information about a center in town that provides free screenings.

We had an interesting discussion about high mortality rates from breast cancer in African American women. I was curious to see their opinion, since everyone in the group was African American. Why was that the case, especially since there is a lower incidence of breast cancer in this population? A wonderful woman in the audience, who does breast cancer outreach at her church, told us access to care was definitely an issue, but also that speaking of cancer was kind of taboo in this community. After the meeting, this woman hugged me and told me that I am doing God’s work by sharing my experience and helping others. It felt good.

The day afterward, I visited IU’s beautiful cancer center with my insurance card in hand. I thought about the ladies and others who do not have access to such great care and may not have the funds to get a second opinion. One woman told me that her daughter is in treatment, but just lost her job and coverage. It costs more than $1,000 for chemo treatments.

It just doesn’t seem right there are people who need care and have to worry about paying for it. I cannot imagine being worried that I cannot pay for my treatment. I think a major shift in our healthcare system is needed. But in the meantime, I’m glad for organizations like The Pink Fund, which helps out with utilities, rent and other necessities so cancer “surthrivors” have one less thing to worry about.

I’d be interested in any comments on this topic.

Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors  Who Beat the Odds. You can visit her at

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1 Comment

  1. Tami, I went through chemo for uterine cancer in 2009, had 9 chemo sessions, and they were $12,000 EACH… then there were the blood-boosting injections (ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 each) in the days between treatments, the bone marrow biopsy, the CT scans, and the almost daily office visits.

    Like many hardworking people in America, I had no medical insurance.

    To say our healthcare system needs a shift is an understatement, but I totally appreciate your post.


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