25/09/2017 10:23 SAST | Updated 25/09/2017 10:23 SAST

The Hidden Costs Of Cancer You Are Not Told About

There are many additional expenses such as wigs, new clothes and food.

Helpless doctor and terminally ill cancer child.
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Helpless doctor and terminally ill cancer child.

One in four South Africans is affected by cancer.

Anyone suffering or affected by the disease will tell you that cancer takes not only a physical and emotional toll -- but is also a huge financial expense. That's even if you are part of the less than 20 percent of South Africans who are on private medical aid in South Africa, as there are other costs that can hit your pocket unexpectedly.

"While it's advisable for people to be prepared with medical aid, severe-illness cover and other policies, it's also vital for them to understand the extent of the additional expenses that aren't directly related to treatment." This is according to Deon Theunis, the head of distribution support at Sanlam Individual Life.

Theunis believes the true financial cost of the disease is often undocumented. "The full financial picture of the cost of cancer really only emerges when one understands these expenses and know what a policy does and does not cover."

While costs differ depending on financial fitness, dependants and the type of treatment one receives, here are some estimations of potential costs one may encounter in the fight against cancer:


Hair loss is one of the side-effects of chemotherapy. PriceCheck suggests human-hair wigs cost anything from R400 to R4,000 (the average being R1,000 to R2,000).

CANSA distributes wigs made from donated hair free of charge when available. The organisation also has a bank of acrylic wigs for patients to borrow from.

New clothes

Cancer patients may likely experience severe weight loss. This may need a few key wardrobe pieces made from gentle, loose-fitting fabrics and this can also be quite costly.


A patient's diet will also likely change. Healthier snacks and pre-prepared small meals are known to be more expensive than preparing your own food. According to this food barometer, you should budget around R2,500 per month for healthy food.

Transport and fuel costs

Doctor's appointments can hit the pocket deeply too, especially if the patient lives far away from treatment centres or specialists. They would need to budget for alternative accommodation. Using public transport also has other logistical issues apart from just cost, such as taking multiple connecting taxis to get to one destination.

Complementary therapies

Some patients may seek alternative holistic therapies such as acupuncture as part of the recovery process and others may opt to see a psychologist for mental and emotional support. Appointments vary between R600 and R 1,200 per session.

Home care

Patients may also need a live-in nurse or caregiver and that can be costly. The average salary for a caregiver can cost anything from R3,500 to R7,500 (the average salary is R4,000) per month or more.