Cancer and your finances

After a cancer diagnosis, many people worry about how they will manage the financial impact.

There are many different types of costs that can add up during diagnosis, treatment and recovery. These will vary depending on cancer type, stage and treatment options. For example, a person diagnosed with early-stage cancer may only have surgery, while a person diagnosed with a blood cancer may have long-term treatments.

You may have health-related expenses, such as medicines, equipment and specialist fees. There can also be extra costs for transport, accommodation, child care or complementary therapies. At the same time, cancer may mean a loss of income if you or your partner/carer has to take time off work. At a time when people should be focused on their treatment and recovery, these costs can be a source of stress and worry.

Here we outline some key questions about managing your finances when you are diagnosed with cancer. You can ask your doctor, social worker or cancer nurse to help you work through these, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

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How will my income be affected?

The way that cancer affects your income will depend on your individual circumstances. You may work on a casual, part-time or full-time basis, be self-employed, or work from home.

If you are working, ask your doctor how much time off you are likely to need or whether you will be able to work throughout your treatment and recovery. Most people who want to continue to work during treatment are able to do so in some capacity.

Check with your employer about leave entitlements and flexible working arrangements. If you are self-employed, you may need to find some other sources of income.

If you have a partner or carer, they can ask their employer to confirm their leave entitlements – they may be able to take carer’s leave or unpaid leave to look after you and/or your children, if you have any.

Check whether you have any income protection insurance (also known as salary continuance insurance). You might have taken out a separate policy, or it could have been provided by your employer or attached to your superannuation. If you do have this type of insurance, find out whether it covers your situation, and whether there is a waiting period before you can make a claim.

For more on this, see Cancer, work and you.

– Sarah

How much will treatment cost?

Before you decide whether to have treatment as a private or public patient, ask the doctor and hospital:

  • how much will consultations and treatment cost
  • will there be any up-front or out-of-pocket (gap) expenses
  • do you offer flexible repayment plans?

The out-of-pocket costs associated with cancer may include:

  • general practitioner (GP) and specialist gap payments
  • scans or tests outside the public health system
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • medical appliances and devices such as breast prostheses
  • travel and accommodation
  • personal care, such as managing side effects from radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

If you have private health insurance, ask the insurer about your gap cover. Gap cover insures you against some of the difference between what a hospital or specialist charges you and what Medicare will give you back (the gap payment). Health funds make arrangements with individual doctors about gap payments. Choosing to see the doctors and hospitals that participate in your health insurer’s medical gap scheme can help to reduce any out-of-pocket costs that you may be charged.

People who live further away from the treating hospital may have extra expenses. If you need to travel away from home for treatment, financial help is available for transport and accommodation costs.

How do I manage my finances?

The financial impact of cancer is different for each person and will depend on the cancer type, stage and treatment, as well as your financial situation before the diagnosis.

If you are struggling financially, talk to your doctor. They may suggest ways to reduce your treatment costs, or they might be able to keep seeing you as a public patient. Your doctor can refer you to a social worker or welfare officer for additional advice. In some cases, if you have no other resources to pay for treatment, you may be able to access your superannuation.

An important step in managing your finances is to fully assess your situation (see How do I prepare a budget?). If you are experiencing financial hardship, take action early to deal with the situation. The longer you wait, the more worrying the debts will become. Let the people you owe money to (your creditors) know about your diagnosis and money situation. Often they will try to help you.

Sorting out financial issues can strain your wellbeing and your relationships. Talking to a trusted family member or a professional adviser about your finances may help you to clarify your situation and find solutions.

There are several specialist financial and support services available. Call 13 11 20 to connect with Cancer Council’s Legal, Financial, Small Business and Workplace Referral Service, or you can contact these organisations.

What help is available

When cancer affects your finances, seeing a professional for advice can help. Whether you should see a financial counsellor or financial planner will depend on your circumstances.

Financial counsellors – These qualified professionals provide practical suggestions to help people manage their personal budget and finances, especially those on low incomes; will act as a negotiator and advocate for people who are at financial risk; and can refer people to legal advice or other services. Financial counsellors provide a free service to their clients; they are not allowed to charge fees or commissions.

Financial planners – These qualified professionals provide investment advice to help people manage their assets and achieve their financial goals. They work for businesses with an Australian financial services licence. Financial planners do not usually provide a free service and will charge fees.

To find a financial counsellor or financial planner, see Support and information.

    — Vincent

How to deal with financial stress

Financial issues are the leading cause of stress for Australians. People with cancer have to manage the cost of treatment, but also the income lost from taking time off work. They may have difficulty balancing their budget, possibly for the first time in their lives, and some can be tipped into financial crisis.

This financial stress adds to the worry of being diagnosed with cancer and may feel overwhelming. For some people, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and conflict with family members.

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer. Getting help with your finances can take a great weight off your mind, but if you are finding it hard to cope emotionally, there are several options to consider:

How Cancer Council's Legal and Financial Support Service can help you

It is estimated that 60% of people affected by cancer face distress from legal and financial challenges, in addition to their health concerns.

Cancer Council’s Legal, Financial, Small Business and Workplace Referral Service may be able to help if you or someone in your family has cancer, or is caring for someone with cancer, and you need assistance with legal, financial, small business or workplace issues.

The program may be able to connect you with professionals who can help you with:

  • preparing wills and power of attorney documents
  • early access to superannuation
  • insurance claims and disputes
  • credit and debt issues
  • employment law advice or managing workplace issues
  • handling disruption to your small business.

Advice is provided by legal, financial and human resources professionals, who volunteer their time. The program is free for people who cannot afford to pay for it.

The Cancer Council team will ask several financial questions to determine whether you are eligible for assistance. If you don’t qualify for free assistance, we can put you in touch with a professional who can assist on a paid basis.

Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out if the Legal, Financial, Small Business and Workplace Referral Service is available in your area. You can also speak to the social worker at your treatment centre and they can refer you to the program.

Cancer Council also produces fact sheets on common legal, financial and workplace issues, such as: Help with bills, Dealing with debts and Superannuation and cancer (download PDFs below).

Click on the icons below to download PDFs on Help with bills, Dealing with debts, and Superannuation and cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit:


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit:

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit:

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in October 2018
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Support services

Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum

Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono legal and financial matters, no interest loans or help with small business

Work and cancer
Information for employees, employers and workplaces dealing with cancer

Cancer information

Dealing with the diagnosis
Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis and how to find hope

Making decisions about work and cancer
What to consider and expect regarding work after a cancer diagnosis

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends