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Open Access Open Badges Research

The financial burden of cancer: Estimates from patients undergoing cancer care in a tertiary care hospital

Adnan A Zaidi1, Tayyaba Z Ansari2* and Aziz Khan2

Author Affiliations

1 Shaukat Khanum Cancer Memorial Hospital, Main Clifton Road, Clifton, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Aga Khan University Hospital, Stadium Road, P.O. Box 3500, Karachi 74800, Pakistan

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2012, 11:60  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-60

Published: 15 October 2012



The emotional burden associated with the diagnosis of cancer is sometimes overshadowed by financial burden sustained by patient and the family. This is especially relevant for a developing country as there is limited state support for cancer treatment. We conducted this study to estimate the cost of cancer care for two major types of cancer and to assess the perception of patients and families regarding the burden of the cost for undergoing cancer treatment at a private tertiary care hospital.


This cross-sectional study was conducted at day care and radiotherapy unit of Aga Khan University, Hospital (AKUH) Karachi, Pakistan. All adult patients with breast and head & neck cancers diagnosed for 3 months or more were included. Data was collected using a structured questionnaire and analysed using SPSS.


Sixty seven patients were interviewed during the study period. The mean and median monthly income of these patients was 996.4 USD and 562.5 USD respectively. Comparatively the mean and median monthly cost of cancer care was 1093.13 USD and 946.42 USD respectively. The cost of the treatment either fully or partially was borne by the family in most cases (94%). The financial burden of cancer was perceived as significant by 28 (42%) patients and unmanageable by 18 (27%) patients. This perceived level of burden was associated significantly with average monthly income (p = <0.001).


Our study indicates that the financial burden of cancer care is substantial and can be overwhelming. There is a desperate need for treatment support programs either by the government or other welfare organisations to support individuals and families who are already facing a difficult and challenging situation.

Cancer; Financial burden; Health care; Support program