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Executive summary

All Australians affected by cancer should be supported to access and receive optimal cancer care. Financial costs of cancer arise in many ways and can have a significant and negative impact on cancer outcomes. The goals of this policy are to improve access to optimal cancer care by decreasing the impact of both direct and indirect financial costs of cancer as well as addressing the changing financial circumstances experienced due to cancer.

The immediate priorities to improve understanding and people’s ability to manage the financial costs of cancer, include:

  • Implement the standard for informed financial consent.
  • Improve the experience of people affected by cancer who require income support payments.
  • Improve financial support for people affected by cancer living in regional and remote areas.
  • Increase access to financial counsellors for people affected by cancer.

We also identify future actions to be investigated in the medium-term:

  • Improve waiting time transparency for cancer-related treatments to support people to make informed decisions.
  • Implement funding models that provide value-based and quality care to people affected by cancer while reducing healthcare costs.
  • Reduce out-of-pocket costs for people with ongoing and long-term treatment and management-related expenses.
  • Ensure that people affected by cancer can access appropriate insurance without discrimination. 
  • Improve the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule safety net co-payment structure.
  • Reform social security programs and income support for people affected by cancer.

Further work to address the increasing costs associated with providing healthcare, growing equity issues, and decline in the affordability of healthcare in Australia can only be addressed through long-term, system-level reform and we will continue to support work toward this goal.1, 2 3 


Cancer Council would like to acknowledge the following people for contributing to this policy.

Michelle BassCancer Council NSW
Prof. Ray ChanCaring Futures Institute, Flinders University SA
Tarishi DesaiMcCabe Centre for Law and Cancer
Beth DoggettRare Cancers Australia
Vicki DurstonBreast Cancer Network Australia
David GoldsburyThe Daffodil Centre (Cancer Council NSW/University of Sydney)
Prof. Louisa GordonQIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Fiona GuthrieFinancial Counselling Australia 
Patricia HancockBreast Cancer Network Australia
Kim HobbsOncology Social Work Australia & New Zealand
Lee HuntCancer Voices
Carly HydeCancer Council Queensland
Hayley JonesMcCabe Centre for Law and Cancer
Dr. Deme KarikiosNepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW / University of Sydney, NSW
Elisabeth KochmanCancer Voices NSW
Dr. Daniel LindsayUniversity of Queensland
Dr. Jordana McLooneUNSW, Sydney
Drew MeehanCancer Council Australia
Tim MurphyLeukaemia Foundation
Tri NguyenCancer Council Australia
Dr. Pandora PattersonCanteen
Amanda PiperCancer Council Victoria
Tim RogersRedkite
Plum StoneRare Cancers Australia
Dr. Carla Thamm

Caring Futures Institute, Flinders University,

SA/Metro South Hospital, and Health Service QLD

Megan VarlowCancer Council Australia
Kate WhittakerCancer Council Australia
Angela WicksCanteen

Cancer Council extends its appreciation to those people and organisations who contributed to developing this policy, who for privacy or other reasons, have asked not to be identified.

External reviewers: Naveena Nekkalapudi and Prof. Michael Jefford.

Review period

This policy was published on 9 October 2023, with the most recent update made on 8 April 2024.

This policy will be updated as required as new information and evidence are available. A full review will be considered every 3 years, with this next review due to commence in October 2026.

If you would like to receive updates about our work, please complete the form below.


Financial burden

A term used to describe the impact of financial issues a person may experience due to the costs of healthcare.

Financial toxicity

The negative patient-level impact of the costs associated with healthcare. These can include direct out-of-pocket and indirect costs that cause physical and psychological harm, affecting an individual's ability to make decisions and can lead to suboptimal outcomes.1 Financial toxicity combines the objective financial burden and subjective financial distress experienced as a result of a cancer diagnosis.2

People affected by cancer

People with cancer and the people with whom they have a relationship that are impacted, such as family, carers, friends, work colleagues and the broader community. With that in mind, the term, ‘people affected by cancer’ usually refers to a person with cancer and their immediate family, carers and friends.

1. Varlow M, Bass M, Chan RJ, Goldsbury D, Gordon L, Hobbs K, et al. Financial Toxicity in Cancer Care Clinical Oncology Society of Australia; 2022.

2. Zafar SY, Abernethy AP. Financial toxicity, Part I: a new name for a growing problem. Oncology (Williston Park). 2013;27(2):80-149.


  1. Paul C, Boyes A, Searles A, Carey M, Turon H. The impact of loss of income and medicine costs on the financial burden for cancer patients in Australia. The Journal of community and supportive oncology. 2016;14(7):307-13.
  2. Callander EJ. Out‐of‐pocket fees for health care in Australia: implications for equity. Medical Journal of Australia. 2023.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Health expenditure. Canberra: AIHW; 2023.

An overview of the Australian cancer care funding system

Healthcare services in Australia are funded through a mix of public funding, private health insurance, non-government organisations and patient contributions.