breast cancerEven though you may have had a friend or family member experience a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s probably still hard to imagine it happening to you.

But one in eight American women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. (after lung cancer), and the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. Seven percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are under the age of 40.

As women, breast cancer is something that needs to be on our radar. No one wants to prepare to get sick, but it’s important to be realistic, and consider what support your current health insurance plan will provide if you are diagnosed.

According to a 2011 survey, most people say they can’t afford the cost of cancer care not covered by insurance plans. Only 37 percent said they could afford paying an extra $1,000 a month; for $2,500 a month, the figure dropped to 16 percent. And those are the people who have coverage. Women who don’t have insurance tend to delay treatments – with devastating results.  A 2007 study in the journal Cancer found that uninsured cancer patients were almost twice as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage.

We talked to some experts about this tough subject.

Shannon McLay, Founder & President at NextGen Financial, says a lot of the cost depends on the type of coverage you have via your employer or a provider through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She told GoGirl:

Thanks to ACA, preventative measures like mammograms are now available at no additional cost to women; however, there are out of pocket costs with breast cancer treatment should you need it. On average, if you have in-network coverage it could be around $5,000 and out of network costs could be around $18,000. Just 10 years ago, this would have been available at no out of pocket costs with insurance; however, to compare, if you did not have ANY insurance, then you would be looking at over $30,000 in costs between surgery, chemo treatments, etc.

A Cancer diagnosis can be devastating, but equally so is not having the means to pay for it — that can mean bankruptcy, forclosure, and extreme stress. McLay says the best thing a person can do is try to be as proactive as possible.

Take Advantage of Any Insurance Plan You Are Offered

You can save hundreds of dollars a year through wellness benefits.

Take Advantage of Preventative Treatments Available to You

McLay says that women should take advantage of free annual check ups and mammograms to help catch any illness in the early stages.

Create a Healthcare Savings Account

Either through an official HSA or basic emergency fund. It is easy to have $1,000 or more in healthcare financial “surprises” — and it’s best to be prepared.

Become Your Own Financial Advocate With Your Insurer

Question and scrutinize every charge you have. Errors happen all the time and you want to make sure you are paying for the treatment and care you are receiving. If possible too, before any treatment begins, you should ask for an explanation of benefits and cost break down from your insurer in writing. You don’t want to be surprised by your medical bills – especially when your doctor and insurer can likely help you calculate the exact cost of treatments.