Can You Afford Cancer Treatment? An Insight On The True Cost Of Cancer Treatment In Singapore

Can You Afford Cancer Treatment? An Insight On The True Cost Of Cancer Treatment In Singapore

Ming Feng

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When I accompanied my relative to the National Cancer Centre Singapore recently, I found myself sitting next to an elderly couple who was waiting to make payment at the registration counter.

While my relative was lucky enough to have her treatment covered by insurance, the elderly couple beside me was not so fortunate.

The man, in his seventies, was passing whatever debit card he can find in his wallet, just to have them all rejected by the system.

“My CPF?”, he asked hopefully. Just to have the lady at the counter shake her head and apologise.

That was when it hits me. This SH*T is REAL.

TL;DR – Treatment Of Cancer Cost $8,000 To $17,000 Per Month

  • Each year, 14,148 Singaporeans are diagnosed with cancer
  • Cancer takes away 5,899 of our loved ones on a yearly basis
  • Treatment of cancer per month is estimated to be between $8,000 to $17,000

FYI: This article is part of Seedly’s Social Outreach Campaign to raise funds for the Singapore Cancer Society. In case you are wondering, we are not sponsored to do so. This is purely to shed light and hopefully garner help or some of the less fortunate Singaporeans.

Cost of cancer treatment in Singapore

While it only takes seconds to receive the news that one has been diagnosed with cancer, their world would have changed forever from that point on. Any dreams or plans one might have right up to the point of diagnosis will not matter anymore.

When we covered the true cost of healthcare treatment in Singapore previously, we noticed that the average cost of treatment is not readily available online.

However, we did little different and found out that the estimated treatment cost for later stage cancer can easily range from $100,000 to $200,000 yearly. That’s about $8,400 to $16,700 per month.

The median monthly salary of an average Singaporean? $3,861.31

Median salary of Singaporeans

Rooms For Improvement For Singapore’s Healthcare System

For a developed country such as Singapore, our lack of transparency when it comes to healthcare cost is shocking.

While the availability of grants and Medisave benefits are plastered all over the websites of hospitals. The actual cost of each treatment is seldom presented. Even if is it, it is not immediately obvious to consumers.

This means that I can go all day highlighting the benefits one can receive from Medisave, without realising that the cost to fork out in cash is still pretty high.

15 People Die From Cancer Every Day

Cancer is actually something that is very real and close to us, Singaporeans. In fact, cancer takes away 5,899 loved ones from families on a yearly basis in Singapore.

For every 3 deaths, 1 is attributed to cancer, making it the top killer in Singapore.

Here’s a closer look at the numbers:

  • 14,148 Singaporeans are diagnosed with cancer each year
  • An average of 38 Singaporeans receive the news that they are diagnosed with cancer on a daily basis
  • And unfortunately, 15 people passed on from cancer every day

Factors Affecting The Cost Of Cancer Treatment

The top 10 cancers in Singapore are:

source: Singapore Cancer Registry Interim Annual Report

Female Male 
Corpus Uteri6.9%Liver7.5%
Ovarian5.4%Lymphoid Neoplasms6.8%
Lymphoid Neoplasms4.4%Skin5.8%
Thyroid3.8%Kidney & Other Urinary (renal pelvis, ureter, and urethra)3.8%
Cervical3.1%Myeloid Neoplasms3.2%

One Main Challenge Of Being Diagnosed With Cancer

For someone who just got diagnosed with cancer, the cost of treatment becomes the main concern

Often, the victim of cancer is in a state of shock and confusion and their priority is to not be a burden to their family members.

One main issue from our personal experience is the lack of transparency in terms of cost when it comes to cancer treatment.

Despite the benefits of MediShield Life and Medisave being plastered all over hospital websites, it certainly did nothing to appease the many questions on a victim’s mind. (eg. a $300 benefit is simply a dent on a $30,000 hospital bill)

It is understandable that the procedures differ from individual to individual, which further adds on to the challenges of coming out with an accurate estimation of the cost involved.

The cost of treatment depends on a few factors:

  • Patient’s body condition
  • Stage of the cancer
  • Type of cancer
  • Type of treatment that is required

Here’s an example of what we mean: a stage 4 cancer patient will be expecting more cycle of chemotherapies as compared to someone in the initial stage.

Cancer growth detected at more vital organs also increases the difficulty to get it treated.

Further Reading: The True Cost Of Cancer

After chatting with the Singapore Cancer Society, here is the breakdown of some of the costs that a cancer patient needs:

Procedures/Medical NeedsCostRemarks
Surgery as part of cancer treatmentS$3,000This is excluding hospital stay.

More complex organs and procedures may result in higher charges.
ChemotheraphyS$1,500 for 1 cycleEach treatment involves a 3-4 cycle, followed by a CT scan to track progress of treatment.
Milk for patients under hospice careS$2002 weeks supply
Adult diapers (if required)S$1002 weeks supply
Ostomy Bags
(for colorectal cancer survivor)
S$501 week supply
Transportation to hospital for treatmentS$201 trip

*Do note that the above numbers are based on the average amount of subsidies that Singapore Cancer Society provides to needy cancer patients. it is not meant to be an exhaustive or definitive list of examples.

We have also compiled some of the cancer-related procedures and their costs

Condition/ProcedureMedian CostsRemarks
Admission for breast cancer
(Day surgery)
$1,034 - $5,665
$218 - $$668
Admission for Breast, Surgical Removal$8,212 - $10,600Ward A
$25,059 - $29,324Private Hospital (1 Bedded)
$21,880Private Hospital (2 Bedded)
$22,782Private Hospital (4 Bedded)
$8,481Ward B1
$6,037Ward B2+
$1,794 - $4,260Ward B2
$1,389 - $1,579Ward C
$1,602 - $2,432Day Surgery (subsidised)
Cancer Therapy with drugs$730Ward B2
$2,115Day Surgery (Private)
$64Day Surgery (Subsidised)
Admission for Intestine/ Stomach, Gastrointestinal Cancer$4,356Ward A
$6,375Private Hospital (1 Bedded)
$3,393Ward B1
$639 - $1,557Ward B2
$708 - $1,837Ward C
Admission for Liver Cancer $4,259 - $5,264Ward A
$3,243Ward B1
$839 - $2,144Ward B2
$999 - $1,519Ward C
Surgery for removal of prostate gland due to cancer$51,596Private Hospital (1 Bedded)
Admission for Lung Cancer
(excludes surgical treatment)
$2,597 - $5,056Ward A
$4,063Ward B1
$812 - $1,987Ward B2
$780 - $1,303Ward C
Admission for Lung Cancer with complications
(excludes surgical treatment)
$2,056 - $3,407Ward B2
$1,598 - $2,639Ward C


Seedly Social Outreach: How Can We Help?

As part of Seedly’s social outreach, we have decided to partner with Singapore Cancer Society to help Singaporeans in need.

Simply head over here to support our cause. It doesn’t matter if you have a $1,000 or $1 to give.

Every dollar matters.
All donations are channelled directly to the Singapore Cancer Society.

Seedly Cancer cost

Singapore Cancer Society Factsheet

In 2016, the Singapore Cancer Society provided financial aid to over 1,800 needy beneficiaries, amounting to about $6.9 million.

source: Singapore Cancer Society

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About Ming Feng
A stint in Bloomberg gifted me with a beer belly, which only grew larger when I moved on to become a Professional Trader. Now I turn caffeine into digestible finance-related content.
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