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Australia’s costly cancer burden: Blood cancer patients facing impossible choices amid soaring costs

Wednesday, February 1 2023

  • Blood cancers remain among most costly to treat, almost triple the cost of other cancers
  • Almost half of Australians living with blood cancer experience out of pocket costs
  • Leukaemia Foundation urges Australians to sign up to 25th anniversary of World’s Greatest Shave to help support people impacted by blood cancer

The Leukaemia Foundation is today releasing new research showing the significant financial strain a blood cancer diagnosis is putting on Australians living with the disease. Nearly half (43 per cent) of those diagnosed experienced out of pocket treatment costs totalling hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars[1].

The research also found 42 per cent of patients had to take over three months off work during treatment, 30 per cent had to leave their job and 50 per cent have not yet been able to return to work. Most patients used savings to fund these costs. Some had to sell assets including their house or car to pay for treatment, while others used charity food boxes, and turned to charities like the Leukaemia Foundation to help ease the burden[2].

“This year 19,403 Australians will be diagnosed with blood cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and this figure is set to nearly double by 2035[3]. Many Australians are already doing it tough due to the rising cost of living and this is just another burden that’s being placed on them at a time where they need to focus on their health and getting better,” Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said.

With blood cancer incidence soaring by 47% in the past ten years[4], and more Australians than ever needing financial, emotional and practical support, the Leukaemia Foundation is today launching the 25th anniversary of World’s Greatest Shave. The organisation is urging Australians to sign up to shave, cut or colour their hair and raise vital funds to help their fellow Australians experiencing the financial burden of a blood cancer diagnosis and help them beat the disease.

“Today’s research reveals the true cost of a blood cancer diagnosis. Financial hardship can be among the most significant challenges for a person or family impacted by the disease and on top of the emotional, physical and social challenges, many individuals and their loved ones are faced with extremely difficult financial decisions just to survive their blood cancer.”

“With lengthy treatment regimes, persistent symptoms and the threat of relapse, the effects of a blood cancer diagnosis can last a lifetime, affecting survivors of all ages, their loved ones and the wider community,” Mr Tanti said.

Blood cancers remain among the mostly costly cancers to treat, with myeloma and leukaemia accounting for two of the top five costliest cancers[5]. Myeloma (an incurable blood cancer) costs the health system about $46,000 per individual per year, almost triple the average cost incurred by cancer patients in Australia[6]. The weighted average out of pocket costs to an individual with blood cancer ranges from $5,000-$11,000, compared with other cancer patients who incur around $2,500 in out of pocket costs[7] .

The distinctive features of blood cancer mean patients face other hospitalisation and treatment costs, as well as unique or intense lifestyle challenges. Treatment can lead to radical disruptions to patient and family life, often involving long hospital stays and the need to relocate to a capital city to access specialist treatment. Blood cancer patients can also face multiple instances of remission and relapse[8] .

For 25 years, World’s Greatest Shave has raised vital funds to ensure the 53 Australians diagnosed with blood cancer each day have the right information as well as emotional, practical and financial support to not only survive their blood cancer but live well. It also helps research scientists continue their search for better ways to diagnose and treat blood cancer more effectively. This simply wouldn’t be possible without the incredible fundraising efforts of everyday Australians signing up to shave, cut or colour their hair.

The research also confirmed that second only to their haematologist, over half of blood cancer patients reached out to the Leukaemia Foundation for information and support[9].

“People with blood cancer need us now more than ever and we can’t delay taking action together. I urge all Australians to join us in celebrating our 25th anniversary of World’s Greatest Shave by signing up and supporting the growing number of people diagnosed with blood cancer every day.”

Officially ramping up to ‘Shave Week’ between March 15-19, help beat blood cancer by signing up to World’s Greatest Shave online at, or call 1800 500 088 for more information. #worldsgreatestshave


About World’s Greatest Shave: World’s Greatest Shave is one of Australia’s longest-running and most-loved charity fundraisers. This year is our official 25th anniversary. All money raised from World’s Greatest Shave provides vital support for the growing number of Australians diagnosed with blood cancer including leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other blood related disorders. The funds raised through World’s Greatest Shave allow the Leukaemia Foundation to continue delivering direct support and services at no extra cost or provide subsidy to support access to other services. Fundraising also helps us to advocate for equitable access to new therapies and treatments and to further invest in vital research.

Blood Cancer in Australia – facts and figures:

  •  In Australia today, 53 people will be told they have blood cancer or one person every 27 minutes. Additionally, 16 people will lose their battle with the disease with blood cancer claiming the lives of more than 5,950 people each year.
  • The Leukaemia Foundation has found that blood cancers combined is the second highest cause of cancer related deaths in the country making blood cancer one of the nation’s most deadly cancers. In fact, 1 in 3 Australians diagnosed with blood cancer will not survive 5 years after their diagnosis.
  • This year, 19,403 Australians will be newly diagnosed with blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, and come 2035, blood cancer diagnosis per year is predicted to close to double.
  • More than 135,000 people are living with blood cancer or a related blood disorder in Australia today.
  • The incidence of blood cancer continues to grow – over the past 10 years alone, the incidence of blood cancer has soared with an increase of 47%.
  • Blood cancer does not discriminate. It can develop in anyone and can occur at any age and at any stage of life across all states and territories, from children to adolescents and young adults to working adults with families and older Australians.
  • Unlike many other cancers, there are no screening programs available for blood cancer, and there is no way to prevent blood cancer through lifestyle change. Additionally, symptoms can sometimes be subtle or similar to other conditions such as a virus or COVID-19, often making it a silent disease that can be difficult to catch.

[1]State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023
[5]State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023
[7]State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023
[8]State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023
[9]State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023

Last updated on March 26th, 2023

Developed by the Leukaemia Foundation in consultation with people living with a blood cancer, Leukaemia Foundation support staff, haematology nursing staff and/or Australian clinical haematologists. This content is provided for information purposes only and we urge you to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis, treatment and answers to your medical questions, including the suitability of a particular therapy, service, product or treatment in your circumstances. The Leukaemia Foundation shall not bear any liability for any person relying on the materials contained on this website.