Reality check: Cost of treating cancer in Singapore

Reality check: Cost of treating cancer in Singapore

If you’ve only got a minute:

  • Cancer treatment cost in Singapore depends on the treatment required and can be costly.
  • Government schemes such as MediSave, MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) cover hospital bills, but not daily expenses. They may not be enough.

When cancer hits your family or loved ones, many questions come to mind: What is the prognosis? How much will cancer treatment cost in Singapore? Where can they get cancer treatment in Singapore? What will doctor’s visits look like? What do they need to overcome this? What can I do to help them? What is the cancer recovery statistics in Singapore? Can cancer insurance in Singapore help with the costs?

Nobody wants to be diagnosed with cancer but based on current statistics, one in four Singaporeans are likely to develop cancer over their lifetimes (source). An MOH spokesman said that the incidence rate of cancer has risen more rapidly among the younger age groups aged below 40, as compared to the older age groups (source).

Cancer-related claims account for 60% of critical illness claims received by Manulife. Younger people (under 35 years old) claiming on critical illness have increased by 50% since 2018 (source: Manulife).

Here are the cancer statistics in Singapore based on the top 10 cancers for each gender.

10 most common cancers in Singapore by gender (2017-2021)

  Men   Women
No. of cases No. of cases
Prostate 6,912 Breast 12,735
Colon & rectum 6,697 Colorectal & rectum 5,542
Lung 5,567 Lung 3,388
Lymphoid neoplasms 2,986 Corpus uteri (uterus) 3,133
Liver 2,984 Lymphoid neoplasms 2,221
Non-melanoma skin 2,136 Ovary & fallopian tube 1,855
Kidney 1,734 Non-melanoma skin 1,713
Stomach 1,684 Thyroid 1,666
Myeloid neoplasms 1,430 Pancreas 1,187
Pancreas 1,417 Stomach 1,111

Source: Singapore Cancer Society, ‘Common Types of Cancer’, accessed 20 January 2024.

Two breast cancer survivors, Jamie Yeo, ex-Mediacorp Artiste and popular host and radio DJ and Lay Teng share their experience with breast cancer in an interview by the Breast Cancer Foundation

Understanding cancer and its treatment options with doctors

Cancer treatment cost in Singapore

Next, the all-important question: How much does cancer treatment in Singapore cost? The actual cost will depend on a few factors:

  1. The condition being treated;
  2. Length of treatment (for chemotherapy or radiotherapy);
  3. How complex the procedure is (if applicable); and
  4. Whether it is done at a public hospital (subsidised) or at a private hospital

It may be helpful too to find out what the treatment plan entails. Some common procedures include:

  • Biopsies. The cost of a biopsy can start from a few hundred dollars and can go up to a few thousand dollars
  • Operations to remove tumours. Tumour removal surgery cost can start from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars
  • Chemotherapy/Radiotherapy: These can start from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars

Chemotherapy costs in Singapore

Cost of Cancer treatment in Singapore

Chemotherapy treatment usually happens in repeating cycles, in which a treatment period is followed by a period of rest. Depending on how complex your treatment plan is, chemotherapy treatment cycles could be weekly, or take place every 2, 3, or 4 weeks3. Typical cancer treatment requires 4 to 8 cycles. For others, you may need more than one course of chemotherapy treatment to eliminate the cancer.

Hospice and palliative care for cancer patients

Tip: Where possible, start a Google Calendar to note down upcoming procedures and doctor’s visits. This will help you and your loved ones keep track of important dates and instructions from doctors. It can also be easily shared with others who would like to be updated, minimising the need for constant updates via text messages.

To give you a better idea of treatment costs, we compiled the cost of procedures related to cancers in Singapore:

Condition/Procedure Hospital Bill (Overall)
(Based on transacted bills from 1 Jan 2021 to 31 Dec 2021)
Public hospitals / centres (Subsidised) Public hospitals / centres (Unsubsidised) Private hospitals / clinics
Abdomen, lining, cancer, surgical removal Ward B2: S$6,427

Ward C: S$7,489
Ward A: S$26,898  
Airway, Lungs abnormal growth with very severe complications Ward B2: S$3,194

Ward C: S$2,738
Ward A: S$8,832

Ward B1: S$7,088
Inpatient: $28,108
Blood, cancer of the blood and lymph nodes without very severe complications Ward B2: S$2,329

Ward C: S$2,099
Ward A: S$8,363

Ward B1: S$3,498
Inpatient: S$13,710
Breast cancer, malignancy with catastrophic or severe complications Ward B2: S$2,113

Ward C: S$1,534
Ward A: S$3,193 

Ward B1: S$3,707
Inpatient: S$5,039
Cancer of liver, gall bladder, bile duct or pancreas with catastrophic complications Ward B2: 3,410

Ward C: S$2,467
Ward A: S$9,970

Ward B1: S$7,669
Inpatient: S$33,642
Colonoscopy with removal of tissue or abnormal growth with scope Day Surgery: S$1,751 Day Surgery: S$6,171 Day surgery: S$8,184
Female reproductive tract, removal of uterus, ovary, Fallopian tubes, and abdomen lining for diagnosis and treatment of cancerous growth Ward B2: S$5,584

Ward C: S$5,493
Ward A: S$20,238

Ward B1: S$17,696
Inpatient: S$37,719
Kidney and urinary system cancer with catastrophic or severe complications Ward B2: S$2,665

Ward C: S$2,214
Ward A: S$8,213

Ward B1: S$7,550
Inpatient: S$14,928

Source: Ministry of Health, ‘Fee benchmarks and bill amount information’, accessed on 22 January 2024.

Note: Figures shown are based on the median fee, i.e., what 50% of patients are charged below. They provide an estimate and may not add up. Typical bill items: Operation fee, Surgeon Fee, Anaesthetist Fee, Facility Fee, others. 

Is cancer insurance in Singapore worth getting?

Is cancer insurance in Singapore worth getting?

Integrated shield plans covers your hospital bills, but not daily expenses

You may have heard of Integrated Shield hospitalisation plans (IPs), which can be added to your existing MediShield Life policy for additional coverage of the costs of private hospitals or class B1 or A wards in public hospitals.

IPs typically cover the bills for cancer treatment in Singapore, such as biopsies, chemotherapy and surgery. From April 2023, IPs will be required to only cover cancer treatments that are on the MediShield Life positive list of clinically proven and cost-effective cancer drug treatments and set claim limits for each cancer drug treatment.

However, they do not provide a lump-sum payout in the event of your diagnosis, unlike critical illness plans or cancer insurance. As such, if your income is affected by your illness, an IP will be able to cover with hospital bills, but not your daily expenses.

Consider cancer insurance if you can afford it

Comprehensive private health insurance is a broader option if you can afford it. However, they may not have adequate coverage for cancer. For coverage specific to cancer, there are policies that are generally cheaper than comprehensive health coverage.

CancerCare for example provides comprehensive coverage for all stages of cancer (including early-stage cancer) up to age 75, is affordably priced from S$8.90/month5 (the cost of 2 lattes), provides 100% payout6 upon diagnosis of any stage of cancer, and is easy to apply for with just 1 medical question to answer (instead of page after page of health declarations).

It’s different from IPs, where your claims depend on the actual medical expenses. In that sense, cancer insurance plans are like a booster shot to your finances when dealing with the cost of cancer treatments and recovery.

(Read more: Why cancer insurance is worth considering)

What causes cancer and how to prevent it

What causes cancer and how to prevent it

What if we took it one step further and started examining parts of our lives we can control to prevent cancer?

1. Making lifestyle changes
Before cutting out certain habits, it’s important to note that genetics do not mean you will most definitely get the disease or avoid it altogether. Only 5% to 10% of cancers are caused by genetic mutations passed down from our parents, according to the Singapore Cancer Society7.

To reduce the risk of getting cancer, taking steps to change your lifestyle will help. According to the Singapore Cancer Society8 and Health Hub9, these include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Preventing sunburn and excessive sun exposure
  • Adding more fruit and vegetables to your diet
  • Getting more exercise - especially activities you enjoy!
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol if you drink

Tip: While it may be difficult to make large lifestyle changes, why not whittle down the list and see what works best for you? Easily add fruit and vegetables to your weekly grocery list with these tips, or get off one bus stop before your actual destination to clock in some extra steps to increase physical activity.

2. Make time for the important things
It may be tempting to put off vaccinations and health screenings because of your packed schedule, but it would be wise to schedule it in and turn up. Did you know that about a million cancer diagnoses could have been prevented by vaccination against HPV and Hepatitis B viruses?

Do make time for regular health screenings as well. It is important to listen to your body and find out what it needs - and when you do get a clean bill of health, you have one less worry and be able to better take care of your loved ones.

If you are having trouble getting a loved one to visit the doctor, this guide may come in handy.

Last but not least, if you notice any changes in your body, such as lumps or discolouration in your skin, do visit a doctor. It may be daunting to do so, but if it turns out to be nothing, peace of mind for yourself and your family cannot be bought. And if it is the worst case scenario, medical professionals can then start treatment for you as soon as possible.

If you do notice unexplainable weight loss, a strange lump or other atypical symptoms, do refer to or for reliable information. The Singapore Cancer Society’s series of posters can also help you decide if you should pay the doctor a visit.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis may be worrisome, but always bear in mind that living a full life following treatment is very much within the realm of possibility with early detection.

There is help for the road ahead, and no one has to do it alone.

DBS has partnered with major insurers in Singapore to make health insurance easily accessible online for purchase. You can now independently learn, compare and buy a plan most suited to your own needs. Find out more on DBS Health Marketplace.

Ready to start?

Speak to a Wealth Planning Manager today for a financial health check, and how you can better plan your finances.

Let's Meet

Alternatively, check out Plan & Invest tab in digibank to analyse your real-time financial health. The best part is, it’s fuss-free – we automatically work out your money flows and provide money tips.

Log in Now

Tell us if this article helps you plan and achieve your financial goals


This article is for information only and should not be relied upon as financial advice. Any views, opinions or recommendation expressed in this article does not take into account the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person. Before making any decision to buy, sell or hold any investment or insurance product, you should seek advice from a financial adviser regarding its suitability.

This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

This article is not intended for distribution to, or use by, any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation.

DBS Insurance Important Notes

Thank you. Your feedback will help us serve you better.

Was this information useful?

That's great to hear. Anything you'd like to add?
We're sorry to hear that. How can we do better?
Enter only letters, numbers or @!$-(),.