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Cancer and finances

5-minute read

After a diagnosis of cancer, there may be a number of practical things to think about. These may include the cost of treatment and support, travel and accommodation costs, or childcare.

Worrying about practical issues can affect the way you feel, especially if it interrupts your daily activities. You may be worried about the effect on your family and how they will cope financially while you’re in hospital or if you can’t work.

Cost of treatments

The cost will depend upon whether you are treated in the public or private system; are working and have to take time off; live in a rural area and need to travel for treatment; and have private health insurance.

A social worker can give you information about what financial and practical support services are available (your nurse or another member of your healthcare team can tell you how to access a social worker or welfare worker).

Paying for treatment

Talk to your local Medicare office about the 'safety net' on costs of medications and medical bills. You may be eligible to apply for the JobSeeker payment if you can’t work or study for a while because of illness.

It is a good idea to plan a budget early. Talk to a trained financial advisor about accessing your superannuation or other ways of managing the costs of treatment. The Cancer Council has a list of organisations that can help you manage your money when you have cancer.

Clinical trials

A clinical trial is a research study on humans. Joining a clinical trial can give you access to new medicines and treatments before they are available to others. Not everyone is suitable for a clinical trial. You can find out more about clinical trials and whether there is one available to test treatment for your cancer at the Australian Clinical Trials website.

Government-assisted travel schemes

If you need to have treatment in a hospital far away from home, you may be able to get help with the cost of accommodation and travel. Each state and territory has a government-funded scheme to help patients who have to travel long distances to obtain specialist treatment that is not available locally. You can contact the scheme in your state or territory:

Working with cancer

Deciding about whether to continue working will depend on your health, financial situation and priorities. If you are feeling well, you may find that continuing to work is helpful. Some people feel they want to make changes in their work life. They may stop work so that they can have more time to enjoy the things they have always wanted to do, or they might change jobs, work part-time, work flexible hours or do volunteer work.

If you feel you need more support (other than the support you receive from your family and friends) in making decisions about work, talk to your doctor or ask your doctor for a referral to a health professional who is experienced in counselling.

A discussion with your personnel manager or supervisor early after your return to work will be useful in clarifying expectations.

Tips for returning to work

  • Plan how and who to tell about your work arrangements.
  • Give your work as much notice as possible if you need to take leave.
  • Explore options for part-time work or flexible hours.
  • Ask for leave before you feel tired or burnt out.
  • Keep records of your work hours, and any discussions or correspondence with your supervisor or manager.

Practical assistance

Depending where you live, you may be able to get assistance with childcare, meals and general home help.

There are a number of sources of practical support and help at home available for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. To find out what support is available to you, call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.

More information

Sources of support include:

  • social worker at your hospital
  • your community/district nurse
  • Cancer Council information on finances
  • the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20
  • your GP
  • your local council
  • a financial planner or financial counsellor
  • occupational therapist for practical advice and aids
  • physiotherapist to help with mobility and exercises
  • palliative care team to help with pain
  • private nursing agencies
  • meals-on-wheels
  • church/religious or volunteer groups
  • Centrelink
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2020

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