Health Insurance

Average Cost of Cancer Treatment in Singapore

A cancer diagnosis always lends itself to a myriad of questions. One of the main questions patients have is how much they'll have to spend on treatment. Typically, cancer treatment is believed to be expensive due to the intensity and longevity of treatment, as well as the possibility for complications. While cancer treatment is often expensive, the actual cost in Singapore will depend not just on the type of cancer, but where you choose to get treatment as well. Below, we examine the average cost of cancer treatment by the type of cancer and treatment type in Singapore.

Table of Contents

Average Cost of Biopsies

The average cost of a biopsy for the most common types of cancers is S$1,044 in public and subsidised hospital wards and clinics. On the upper end of the spectrum, you can expect to pay S$5,833 for a biopsy in private hospitals and clinics. The cheapest biopsy is for skin cancer, which costs an average of S$492 in a public subsidised ward. The most expensive is a lung cancer biopsy, costing an average of S$1,793 in a public subsidised ward. As expected, private hospital biopsies are more expensive, costing 2 to 5 times more than subsidised public hospital biopsies. While getting a biopsy in a B1 or A ward is 95-158% more expensive than in a subsidised hospital ward, it will be around 70% cheaper than getting a biopsy done in a private hospital.

Type of CancerHospital TypeAverage Total Bill
Breast CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$6,275
Public (Unsubsidised)S$2,243
Public (Subsidised)S$915
Prostate CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$6,067
Public (Unsubsidised)S$1,855
Public (Subsidised)S$939
Colorectal CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$3,730
Public (Unsubsidised)S$3,003
Public (Subsidised)S$1,160
Skin CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$3,180
Public (Unsubsidised)S$961
Public (Subsidised)S$492
Source: Ministry of Health

Furthermore, it also costs less to be treated at a clinic as a day patient than as an inpatient in a hospital. For instance, we found that a lung biopsy performed as day surgery costs S$3,999 in a private clinic but S$20,422 in a private hospital (as an inpatient). Similarly, getting the same procedure done as day surgery in a subsisdised clinic costs 80% less than getting it done as an inpatient at a B2 ward.

Average Cost of Surgery by Cancer Type

The average cost of surgery for 5 common cancers ranges between S$2,810 in a public subsidised ward to S$32,663 in a private hospital. Surgery in a subsidised public hospital ward costs 80% less than treatment in an unsubsidised public hospital. However, treatment at an unsubsidised public ward is 56% cheaper than treatment in a private hospital.

Type of CancerHospital TypeAverage Total Bill
Breast CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$18,525
Public (Unsubsidised)S$4,176 (wire localisation excision)
Public (Subsidised)S$1,777
Prostate CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$53,326
Public (Unsubsidised)S$26,244
Public (Subsidised)S$2,030
Colorectal CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$42,612
Public (Unsubsidised)S$23,041
Public (Subsidised)S$4,177
Lung CancerPrivate (Unsubsidised)S$25,240
Public (Unsubsidised)S$9,159
Public (Subsidised)S$2,426
Source: Ministry of Health

Average Cost of Cancer by Treatment Type

There are several methods of treatment depending on cancer type. The most common treatments are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and immunotherapy.

Chemotherapy

The average cost of chemotherapy in Singapore is around S$1,500 per cycle. The amount you can expect to spend per year depends on how many cycles you need and how frequently you need it.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common types of treatment for cancer. It can be used to cure, control or relieve symptoms of cancer. It can be administered via oral medication, injection into a muscle or injection into a vein. The cost of chemotherapy changes depending on the amount of drugs you need. In some cases, you may need only one drug, but in other cases, your oncologist may prescribe a mix. Furthermore, costs depend on how often you need chemotherapy and the stage of your cancer.

Radiation Therapy

The average cost of radiation therapy in Singapore is approximately S$25,000 to S$30,000. A new type of radiation therapy, called proton therapy, is set to be available in 2020. This procedure will consist of 15-30 minute sessions over the course of 6-weeks and will cost S$13,000 for patients who qualify for subsidies.

Similar to chemotherapy, the total cost of radiation therapy depends on the number of sessions required. Radiation therapy shrinks or destroys tumours using high-energy X-rays. There are two main types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy (sometimes called biological therapy) is one of the newest methods of cancer treatment. Immunotherapy drugs are quite expensive, costing an average of S$9,000 per dose. Because the dose is administered every two to three weeks, the average cost for a year's worth of treatment ranges between S$156,000 and S$234,000.

With this type of treatment, the immune system attacks the cancer cells. More specifically, immunotherapy helps a type of antibody called a checkpoint inhibitor block checkpoint proteins on cancer cells that keep immune cells from killing them. Immunotherapy has been approved for several types of cancer including Hodgkin's Lymphoma, advanced melanoma, bladder cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

How to Pay for Cancer Treatment

There are several avenues of financial help when it comes to cancer treatment. First, you can use your MediSave to pay for some outpatient and inpatient treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Singapore's public health insurance scheme, Medishield Life, can also help offset a small portion of the cost. Medishield Life offers S$3,000 of coverage for chemotherapy treatment and between S$140 and S$1,800 of coverage per session of radiotherapy treatment. It also offers between S$200 and S$2,000 for surgical procedures. Second, individuals who have an Integrated Shield Plan will receive even higher coverage. Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) will cover your hospital stay, pre-hospital and post-hospital treatments and most types of cancer treatment up to 95% of the cost of your bill. However, you should note that it may be difficult to get purchase an IP if you were already diagnosed with cancer. It may end up being classified as a pre-existing condition and will be either be excluded from coverage or be subject to very high premiums.

Individuals who are worried about the state of their financial stability should they get cancer can consider critical illness plans. These insurance policies offer a lump sum payment upon a cancer diagnosis. You can use that cash for whatever you like, whether its paying for things your insurance doesn't cover or your daily living expenses. Similar to IP plans, it is much more beneficial for you to get the plan while you are still healthy.

Beyond insurance, patients also have the option of using government subsidies such as MediFund. MediFund helps patients who still have difficulties paying a bill even after receiving a government subsidy and using their insurance. Patients can submit their applications and the amount of aid given will be considered and approved on a case by case basis. Lastly, you can also apply for financial assistance from the Singapore Cancer Society.

Methodology

We used data from the Ministry of Health to find the average cost of biopsies and surgery for the most popular type of cancers in Singapore. Based on data availability we were able to obtain biopsy, surgery or both bills for breast, prostate, colorectal, skin, stomach, ovary and lung cancer. To find the rest of the costs, we used news and government sources since pricing data is unavailable on a medication-specific level. Thus, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy pricing are benchmarks. We also didn't look at indirect costs such as costs of supplemental medication, transportation and palliative care because they can range widely depending on the patient's budget and medical needs.

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, focusing on insurance. She holds an International Business Management diploma and a B.A. in Economics from New York University. Her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector.

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