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 could add up during treatment and recovery. You may have health-related expenses, such as medicines, equipment and specialist fees. As well as these costs, there can 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 has to take time off work.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, it can be difficult to know where to start. Some of the key financial questions are outlined below. 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?

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. Check with your employer about leave entitlements and flexible working arrangements.

– Sarah

If you have a partner or carer, they should check with their employer as well. Find out whether they can take carer’s leave to look after you and/or your children.

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 insurance, find out whether it covers your situation, and whether there is a waiting period before you can make a claim.

How much will treatment cost?

Knowing all the costs before agreeing to treatment is called informed financial consent. Before you decide whether to have treatment as a private or public patient, ask the doctor and hospital how much consultations and treatment will cost, if there will be any up-front or out-of-pocket (gap) expenses, and whether they offer flexible repayment plans. If you have private health insurance, ask the insurer about your gap cover.

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.

Check where you can have the treatment. If you need to travel away from home, there will be transport and accommodation costs, although some help is available.

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.

An important step in managing your finances is to fully assess your situation by preparing a budget. If you are experiencing financial hardship, take action early. The longer you wait, the more worrying the debts will become. Explain your circumstances to your creditors and service providers, and often they will try to help you.

Sorting out finances can place strain on your wellbeing and on your relationships. Talking to a trusted family member or a professional adviser about your finances may help you to see your situation clearly and find solutions.

There are a number of specialist financial and support services available. Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Program may be able to help, or you can get in touch with the organisations listed in Further support and information.

Financial counsellor or planner?

When cancer changes your financial plans, it can be a good idea to seek guidance from a professional. Whether you should see a financial counsellor or financial planner will depend on your circumstances. 

Financial counsellors

  • provide practical advice to help people managing their personal budget and finances
  • work closely with community organisations that assist people in financial difficulty, especially those on low incomes
  • will act as a negotiator and advocate for people who are at financial risk
  • provide a free service to their clients (they are not allowed to charge fees or commissions)

Find a financial counsellor.

Financial planners

  • provide investment advice to help people manage their assets and achieve their financial goals
  • work for businesses with an Australian financial services licence
  • charge fees (i.e. do not provide a free service) 

Find a financial planner.

Finances and stress

Financial issues represent the leading cause of stress for Australians.

People with cancer face not only the extra expenses associated with treatment, but also the income lost from taking time off work. They may struggle to balance their budget, possibly for the first time in their life, 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.

Getting help with your finances can take a great weight off your mind, but if you are finding it hard to cope emotionally, try talking to your GP as well. Counselling and/or medication – even for a short time – may help. You may be able to get a Medicare rebate for sessions with an accredited counsellor or a psychologist.

You could check whether you can talk to a psychologist or social worker at your cancer care centre. Cancer Council can also provide access to counselling and other support programs.

The organisation beyondblue has information about coping with depression and anxiety. Lifeline offers 24-hour crisis support – you can call them on 13 11 14.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Cancer and Your Finances.

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.

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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”.
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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.

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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.
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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 2015
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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