The Real Cost: Cancer Treatment in Singapore

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 22 August, 2022

There may be hidden costs on every dollar you spend. The Real Cost, a SingSaver Series, uncovers all the unexpected expenses you’re incurring.

Cancer treatment in Singapore can cost up to several thousands of dollars, and that’s only part of it. Here’s what the real cost of a cancer diagnosis looks like and tips for managing treatment costs.  

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Singapore, and 1 in 4 Singaporeans may develop cancer in their lifetime. These are sobering stats, and make the case for why we should be vigilant about the disease.

The good news is that early detection and treatment dramatically improve the chances of survival. As such, it is a good idea to have a solid plan in place that focuses on screening, treatment and recovery.

To that end, here is a rundown of the real cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment in Singapore. 

Top five cancers in Singapore for men and women

Cancer is a complex disease, and different types of cancers require different treatments. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy may not always be effective, applicable or necessary in all cases. 

Also, cancer progresses through four different stages, ranging from mild to life-threatening. The treatment required at each stage will differ, both in approach and duration. 

Another factor that will impact the cost of treatment is whether you go for treatment at a public or a private hospital. 

Therefore, the cost of cancer treatment can vary widely, depending on the stage at which the cancer is discovered, what type of cancer it is, and where you choose to undergo treatment. 

To help focus our discussion, we will be looking at average costs of common treatment options for the top five cancers for men and women. 

Top 5 cancers for men in Singapore (2014 to 2018)

CancerNo. of cases 
Colon and rectum6,129
Lymphoid neoplasms2,358

Top 5 cancers for women in Singapore (2014 to 2018)

CancerNo. of cases 
Colorectal and rectum5,109
Ovary and fallopian tube1,897

Source: Singapore Cancer Society 

Average cost for cancer diagnosis and treatment in Singapore

The figures presented in the following table represent fee benchmarks and bill amount information from the Ministry of Health, covering treatment in public and private hospitals.

Note that for public hospitals, the figures listed indicate the total bill paid by 50% of patients undergoing a particular treatment. For private hospitals, the recommended charges are displayed instead. 

TreatmentTotal bill paid by 50% of patients (typically includes doctor's attendance fee, ward charges, medication and tests)
Partial Removal Of End Of Large Intestine And Rectum (Conventional Or Keyhole Surgery)Public hospital (subsidised)- Ward C: S$4,640- Ward B2: S$6,056
Public hospital (unsubsidised)- Ward B1: S$24,946- Ward A: S$28,296
Private hospital (recommended charges)- Surgeon’s fees: S$10,700  to S$16,050- Anaesthetist fees: S$2,480 to S$3,600
Breast, Conservation Of Breast, Removal Of Cancerous GrowthPublic hospital (subsidised): S$1,852
Private hospital (recommended charges)- Surgeon’s fees: S$3,200 to S$5,540- Anaesthetist fees: S$995 to S$1,300
Lungs, Abnormal Growth With Very Severe ComplicationsPublic hospital (subsidised)- Ward C: S$2,905- Ward B2: S$3,745
Public hospital (unsubsidised)- Ward B1: S$949- Ward A: S$5,240
Private hospital (recommended charges): S$27,236
Removal Of Uterus, Overy, Fallopian Tubes, And Abdomen Lining For Diagnosis And Treatment Of Cancerous GrowthPublic hospital (subsidised)- Ward C: S$4,578- Ward B2: S$5,065
Public hospital (unsubsidised)- Ward A: S$19,676
Private hospital (recommended charges)- Surgeon’s fees: S$12,650  to S$16,050- Anaesthetist fees: S$2,390 to S$3,450
Removal Of Entire Prostate And SurroundingsPublic hospital (subsidised)- Ward C: S$8,205- Ward B2: S$9,514
Public hospital (unsubsidised)- Ward A: S$27,370
Private hospital (recommended charges)- Surgeon’s fees: S$16,300  to S$26,350- Anaesthetist fees: S$3,020 to S$4,400
Upper Abdomen, Liver Or Pancreas Cancer Without Very Severe ComplicationsPublic hospital (subsidised)- Ward C: S$1,279- Ward B2: S$1,939
Public hospital (unsubsidised)- Ward B1: S$3,539- Ward A: S$4,883
Private hospital (recommended charges): S$9,371
General, Cancer Treatment With MedicinePublic hospital (subsidised)- Ward C: S$614- Ward B2: S$2,050
Public hospital (unsubsidised)- Ward B1: S$1,672- Ward A: S$1,799
Private hospital (recommended charges)- Inpatient: S$2,597- Day surgery: S$3,152

Source: Ministry of Health

Other related costs to consider

Undergoing treatment is just part of the journey towards ultimate recovery. Depending on the outcome of the treatment, there may be other costs that could accompany a cancer diagnosis.

Follow-up screening and consultation

After a successful cancer treatment, patients are considered to be in remission, and over the next five years, have to continue going for regular checkups in case the cancer comes back or manifests in another part of the body. 

In addition to specialist consultations (oncologists are specialist doctors), this may entail further tests, treatments or medications that could add up to a large sum.

Mobility aids and/or prosthetics

Depending on the nature and outcome of the treatment, mobility aids such as wheelchairs or crutches may be required. 

Similarly, prosthetics for breasts or other body parts may also be needed, and modifications to the home such as grab bars and non-slip flooring may become necessary. These items may not be covered under Medisave.

Loss or reduction in income

Cancer treatment can be particularly taxing on the body, and severely ill patients may require extended periods of rest and recuperation. 

Those who do not have sufficient medical leave, or are self-employed, may face a reduction or loss of income during this period. 

How to cope with the high cost of a cancer diagnosis

Ensure adequate cancer coverage

Unless you happen to have a spare box of gold sitting around in a closet somewhere, the most important thing you can do for coping with the high cost of a cancer diagnosis is to ensure you have adequate cancer coverage

Do not be complacent and assume that your basic Medisave will be sufficient to cover your entire treatment costs. If you exceed your withdrawal limits, you’ll have to contend with dealing with debt on top of your treatment. 

At the very least, look into purchasing an Integrated Shield Plan that can extend your coverage and give you other benefits and perks that you may not think you’d need. 

And for those that have a higher cancer risk profile (such as a family history of the disease, occupational or lifestyle hazards, etc), it is not a bad idea at all to sign up for a dedicated cancer care insurance plan.

Reduce your risk factors

Between the grimness of the disease, and the high cost of treatment, there should be more than enough motivation to take steps to avoid cancer as much as you can. It’s worth mentioning that simple lifestyle changes can reduce cancer and disease risk.

Stop smoking, limit drinking, eat a healthy, varied diet, get plenty of rest and exercise, and manage your stress and mental health. All these are great starting points that could lead you to a better health outcome down the road. 

Get screened early and often

Another simple yet important step to take in avoiding the heavy toll of cancer (both in health and finances) is by going for regular health checkups. 

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, early diagnosis improves cancer outcome, as early stage cancer is invariably easier to treat and manage than late stage cancers. 

Speak to your primary care provider to work out an appropriate schedule for cancer and health screening, and do your best to stick to the plan.

Protected up to specified limits by SDIC.

Note: This is only product information provided. You may wish to seek advice from a qualified adviser before buying the product. If you choose not to seek advice from a qualified adviser, you should consider whether the product is suitable for you. Buying an insurance product that are not suitable for you may impact your ability to finance your future healthcare needs.

If you decide that the policy is not suitable after purchasing the policy, you may terminate the policy in accordance with the free-look provision, if any, and the insurer may recover from you any expense incurred by the insurer in underwriting the policy.

Read these next:
Best Critical Illness Insurance Plans In Singapore (2022)
Best Cancer Insurance Plans In Singapore (2021)
5 Critical Things You Need to Know About Cancer Insurance
Everything You Need To Know About Breast Cancer: Screening, Treatment Costs & Insurance
Critical Illness Plans vs Early Critical Illness Plans: Which Should You Get

An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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