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Blood cancer patients and families hit by perfect storm

Tuesday March 12, 2024

The Leukaemia Foundation is today casting the spotlight on concerning figures showing the significant financial distress blood cancer patients and their families are currently facing in Australia.

Research shows that more than 8,300 (43%) of the 19,500 patients diagnosed with blood cancer in the past year, experienced out of pocket treatment costs totalling hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars[i].

Adding to the financial hardship is the fact that around 8,200 (42%) of patients had to take over three months off work during treatment, 5,800 (30%) had to leave their jobs entirely, and over 9,700 (50%) have not yet been able to return to work[ii].

According to Leukaemia Foundation CEO, Chris Tanti, this combination of out-of-pocket expenses and the inability to work during or following blood cancer treatment, is having a dire financial impact on blood cancer patients and their families, creating a perfect storm for financial distress.

“Blood cancer is one the nation’s most expensive cancers to treat, creating a significant and sudden financial burden on those Australians diagnosed, and our health system,” said Mr Tanti.

“With incidence on the rise, we’re seeing a shocking number of patients, and their families, reaching out to us for support as the disease financially cripples them, sometimes within weeks.

“We are currently helping patients and families who are being forced use savings, sell assets including cars and homes, or turn to charity food boxes and food banks to survive.

“What’s also distressing, is the fact that these people are often immediately thrown into lifesaving treatment, leaving little or no time to get their financial affairs in order, or to work out how they are going to support themselves or their loved ones at home.”

In 2024, an estimated 19,500 further Australians will be diagnosed with blood cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, and this figure is set to nearly double by 2035[iii].

“Many Australians are already doing it tough with the rising cost of living but imagine being told you have blood cancer on top of this.

“For the 53 people diagnosed with blood cancer each day[iv], it’s another financial hit to them at a time when they need to focus on their health and surviving their diagnosis.”

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[v].

Blood cancers myeloma and leukaemia account for two of the top five costliest cancers in the country to treat[vi], with myeloma alone costing the health system about $46,000 per individual, per year, almost triple the average cost incurred by other cancer patients in Australia[vii].

The distinctive features of blood cancer treatment often lead to radical disruptions to patient and family life, involving long hospital stays and the need to relocate to a capital city to access specialist treatment, further impacting patients’ ability to work, or to keep their jobs.

“Every day we hear from blood cancer patients who are struggling to financially survive due to the cost they bear from their diagnosis.

“With the rising cost of medical expenses, utility bills, and daily essentials, plus the exuberant cost of rent and mortgages, it’s no wonder that when you couple this with the significant loss of income patients face when diagnosed, that many are doing it tough.”

In the past year, the Leukaemia Foundation has experienced a 36% increase in people living with blood cancer reaching out for financial assistance, with many turning to the charity to help make ends meet.

As the financial burden deepens, the Leukaemia Foundation is reaching out to Australians for help and urging them to get behind this year’s World’s Greatest Shave.

“As a charity that receives no on-going government funding, we heavily rely on the generosity of the Australian community so we can assist blood cancer patients and their loved ones, through this incredibly difficult time.

“If we are to have any hope of easing the financial burden of blood cancer on those impacted, we desperately need more people to sign up to shave, cut, or colour their hair this March.

“We know that the World’s Greatest Shave alone is not going to solve the problem, but it’s certainly going to make a significant difference to the support we can provide to patients, and their families, right now when they need it most,” added Mr Tanti.

Every strand of hair Australians change in this year’s World’s Greatest Shave, will help support fellow Australians currently facing blood cancer.

To register to participate in the World’s Greatest Shave this March, sign up now via or call 1800 500 088.

[i] State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023
[v] State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023
[vi] State of the Nation in Blood Cancers in 2023