Cost of Chemotherapy in India

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is one of the treatments of cancer using one or more cell-inhibiting drugs. The drugs, also called cytostatics, inhibit the growth of cancer cells or destroy the cells. The drugs are taken by mouth or directly into the bloodstream with an infusion, after which they spread throughout the body and can reach cancer cells anywhere.

Other possible cancer treatments, such as surgery and radiotherapy, destroy or damage cancer cells in a specific location, while chemotherapy works throughout the body. Chemotherapy can kill cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body. In addition to the cancer cells, chemotherapy also affects healthy cells. As a result, side effects may temporarily occur – nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, increased risk of infection, decreased appetite, and ulcerated mouth. These side effects vary from person to person and depend among other things on the medication, the amount of medication and the duration of treatment. The side effects usually disappear after treatment.

Cost of chemotherapy treatment in India

Chemotherapy is based on cycles or rounds. The frequency can vary widely from one cycle per week to one every three weeks. The initial phase of the treatment consists of 4-6 cycles. The treatment for cancer has to be completely customized. The patient may need radiotherapy and surgery in addition to chemotherapy.

The average chemotherapy cost in India per cycle is between USD 1,100 and USD 1,400. This does not include the cost of consultation, other medications, and tests. The typical cost of 6 cycles is about USD 12,000.

In addition, there is the cost of boarding. The therapy may need some months, and the patient does not need to be admitted to the hospital at all times. It is also vital that patients have 1-2 family members to assist them.  In all with the cost of board and food, the cost is about USD 13,500 for 6 cycles over 3-4 months. It has to be understood these are very broad estimates of chemotherapy cost in India and may vary widely.

Preparatory investigations

Before cancer treatment starts, your treating specialist will conduct a number of examinations to get to know the stage of the disease. He will, for example, examine how large the tumor is, where it is exactly, whether it grows in the surrounding organs, whether there are metastases.

In the hospital where you receive chemotherapy, a whole team of employees is ready for you. These include:

  •         Medical oncologist: the doctor who specializes in cancer treatment.
  •         Organ specialist: for example the gynecologist, the urologist, the hematologist, the gastrointestinal specialist, the pulmonologist.
  •         Onco-surgeon: the specialist who mainly performs operations
  •         Radiotherapist: the doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer by radiation. However, not every hospital has a radiation department. For radiotherapy, you may, therefore, have to go to another hospital.
  •         Psychologist: can provide emotional support if you are struggling.
  •         Dietitian or nutrition consultant: he can give you nutritional advice that is specifically focused on your situation.

Intent of chemotherapy

Doctors sometimes use the terms curative, adjutant, neoadjuvant or palliative. Those terms say something about the purpose of treatment. Chemotherapy can have a curative, adjuvant, neoadjuvant or palliative purpose.

  •         Curative treatment is intended to cure a patient.
  •         Adjutant treatment is given in addition to the curative treatment. Chemotherapy, for example, is often given after surgery and is then intended to reduce the risk of cancer coming back.
  •         A neoadjutant or preoperative treatment is given for surgery with the intention of reducing the size of a tumor and make it easier to operate and to improve long-term survival.
  •         Palliative treatment relieves symptoms such as pain but does not cure the disease. Its purpose is to extend the quality of life of the patient and may in some cases also extend the life span.

If you wish to know this, ask your doctor explicitly whether your illness is curable or not, so that you are well informed, and you can help decide whether to continue treatment. After all, it is critical to undergo a curative treatment completely and at precise times – even if you suffer a lot from side effects. Sometimes chemotherapy is the only treatment you receive, without, for example, having surgery. This may be the case with leukemia or Hodgkin’s lymphomas. However, chemotherapy is often combined with surgery or radiotherapy, or with both

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