The cost of cancer care
Too many people in Canada are paying out-of-pocket to access the cancer care that they need, spending $260 on average per month. These costs pay for things like medications, transportation to and from appointments, and caregiver expenses. For some people, like those who live in rural and remote communities and families caring for young children, the costs can be even greater.
We’re doing all we can to help people access the care they need without financial hardship.
But closing this care gap is going to take everyone acting together to find solutions. It takes a society.
That’s why we’re asking everyone to join us in calling on governments across Canada to help make cancer care more affordable for those who need it. Add your name to our letter and we’ll hand deliver it to the Minister of Health in April to call for change.
Too many people in Canada today are struggling to access the cancer care they need to thrive. For too many, the out-of-pocket costs that accumulate through diagnosis, treatment and recovery place a financial burden on their families. Too many lab fees, too many bills or co-pays for drugs, and too many trips to the pump to fill up before the next drive to the hospital. It’s the accumulation of all of these costs—at a time when you can’t work to support yourself or loved ones that makes things so despondent. And as a result, too many people will go without—without their tests, without their prescriptions and medications, and without timely access to treatment.
That’s why today, we’ve joined our voices with the Canadian Cancer Society in calling on you to help close this gap in care by leading a Canada-wide effort to reduce out-of-pocket costs for all those facing cancer.
In Canada, these costs can range from an average of $253 to as much as $550 CAN per month. This figure is hugely dependent on your cancer type and individual circumstances. For underserved populations—like people living in rural or remote communities or pediatric patients and caregivers—the costs are much greater. 2024 polling found that 90 per cent of respondents indicated that a cancer diagnosis would impact their household finances.
There’s no one solution and no one entity that alone can make things right. It’s going to take all of us working together in our communities and jurisdictions to close this gap in care—it’s going to take a society.
Today, we are asking that the federal government do its part to address the out-of-pocket costs related to cancer care by:
- Make the federal caregiver tax credit refundable to help support caregivers who are not able to work
- Work with provinces to expand job protected leave in all workplaces to 26 weeks, to match the recent expansion to the Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit and more accurately reflect the length of time for cancer treatment and recovery
- Reduce the cost of cancer drugs, foster a research ecosystem of innovation, and continue to provide safeguards to existing access to drugs that are already available to patients
- And continue to work with provinces and territories to reduce the multitude of costs borne by patients and caregivers, including:
- Medical transportation and accommodation
- Home care
Minister, in 2023 an estimated 239,100 people were diagnosed with cancer. We look forward to learning more about how the federal government will continue to do its part and reduce barriers to accessing care for these people and all those facing cancer.
The cost of cancer: Taaha’s Story
[Taaha Ijaz is seated in front of a white backdrop wall in a well-lit room with a green plant to the left as he speaks to the camera.]
Taaha Ijaz: I was 17 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer.
[The Canadian Cancer Society logo appears on screen.]
Words on screen: Taaha Ijaz, Registered Nurse and cancer survivor
Taaha Ijaz: It impacted my life big time. It takes away a lot. My mom came to every single appointment, every single chemo session. My dad made lots of sacrifices as well.
[A picture appears on the screen of Taaha’s father and mother outside seated on a rock together.]
Taaha Ijaz: Five days in a row where we're at the hospital 10 hours a day, that’s 50 hours.
[Taaha is seated speaking to the camera.]
Taaha Ijaz: My parents are, you know, taking time off work.
[A picture of Taaha and his mother appears on screen. Taaha’s arm is wrapped around his mother’s shoulder.]
Taaha Ijaz: And taking time off, attending to my other brothers as well to be with me during my treatment.
[A selfie of Taaha and his father appears on screen during a time when Taaha was in treatment in hospital.]
Taaha Ijaz: Bringing awareness to the hidden costs associated with the cancer diagnosis and treatment is extremely important.
[Taaha is seated speaking to the camera.]
Taaha Ijaz: Fortunately, a lot of the things are covered here in Canada, but there's still a lot that isn’t covered.
[A picture of Taaha appears on the screen from his time in the hospital. He is laying on his hospital bed.]
Taaha Ijaz: The costs add up really quickly.
[A picture of Taaha appears on the screen where he is sitting on a bench in the hospital and his head is shaved. He has a blanket over his shoulders and is resting up against a pillow.]
[Taaha is seated and speaking to camera.]
Taaha Ijaz: Before you know, you've got this long list of bills that have shown up out of nowhere and you haven't been able to go to work and all that because you're making a decision between attending treatment or going to work.
[A list of costs associated with cancer care written on a notebook grid-style paper comes up on the screen and in bullet point form the costs appear in order:
- travel costs
-side effect management supplies]
[Taaha is seated speaking to the camera]
Taaha Ijaz: Having to make that decision is devastating and heartbreaking. Being able to provide people with that support financially so that they can focus on their treatment, that is a whole new chapter in their life.
[A picture of Taaha in a hospital bed with him sleeping appears. There are tubes attached to Taaha’s right arm.]
Taaha Ijaz: And being able to support them through it so that they can give all their attention to their treatment really is what we can do for each other as humans.
[A picture of Taaha smiling at the camera appears on the screen. Taaha is outside with green lush trees in the background.]
[The screen cuts back to Taaha speaking to the camera with a white backdrop and plant to the left side.]
[The screen turns yellow.]
Words on screen]: Too many people in Canada are paying out-of-pocket to access the cancer care they need.
Words on screen: Join us in calling for change. Visit cancer.ca/costofcancer
[The text fades out and dissolves.]
[The Canadian Cancer Society logo appears on screen.]:
Words on screen: It takes a society