Medical tourism, which is the practice of traveling from one place to another for medical care, is no longer limited to patients seeking conventional treatments such as hip resurfacing, spine fusion, knee replacement, heart bypass, lap band, cosmetic surgeries, or dental treatments. Today, many are going overseas to seek “unconventional” medical tourism treatments such as those for cancer.

Cancer patients may be driven abroad by low prices but what remains the prime motivator is the easy accessibility to the latest technology at overseas cancer hospitals.

COMPARING THE US AND ABROAD
Without a doubt USA is the pioneer of the latest medical technologies and the country invests heavily in cancer researches. Such developments have provided remedies for previously irremediable diseases, thereby prolonging and improving the lives of the critically ill. However, these advancements remain beyond the means of those who lack health insurance, simply because of the price tag at which they come, in the US anyway.

But, in India or Singapore or Turkey, for instance, not only are the same state-of-the-art technologies being used, the treatments are offered at a much lesser price making them accessible to a greater part of the populace. It is not uncommon, therefore, to see surgeons in Asia working behind the gamma knife or the CyberKnife or the da Vinci robotic surgical system, treating patients from all over the world and offering their services at a much discounted rate as compared with US rates.

COMMON CANCERS AND THEIR TREATMENTS OVERSEAS
Cancer hospitals abroad treat all types of cancers. Though most types of cancers are suitable for overseas treatment, a patient’s candidacy can only be decided on an individual basis. The more common ones that patients go abroad to cure are prostate cancer, breast cancer and thyroid cancer.

There are several types of cancer therapies available today. Some of them are: surgery, radiotherapy (RT), chemotherapy, palliative therapy, etc. The specific treatment plan designed by the foreign doctor will depend on: (1) the type of cancer, (2) its stage, (3) whether it has metastasized to other parts of the body, (4) the patient’s overall physical health, and so on. The doctor may decide to give a combination of various types of therapies to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

Following are some examples of cancer treatments given abroad to remove the cancer from the body and to treat the symptoms of the disease:
(1) Surgical resection of the affected organ followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy to remove any remaining cancer cells.
(2) Depending on distant metastases state and the pathology report, the doctor might use palliative or aggressive radiation therapy.
(3) A high dose IMRT of primary and lymph nodes (LNs).

ISSUES WITH SEEKING CANCER TREATMENT ABROAD
As is well known, the quality of care offered abroad is on par with what is available in the United States. So the treatment quality is not a concern. But what might be of concern is the duration of the treatment.

When you go overseas for a surgery such as a hip resurfacing or a heart surgery, you usually need to spend no more than 2 to 3 weeks in the host country. That’s true for most of the procedures you seek abroad. But in the case of cancer treatment, the duration of the treatment is a big concern. The treatment plan that the oncologist or the doctor designs can run over a period of several months. This means longer stays for the international patient and his companion which in turn translates to higher expenditure on accommodation. To resolve this and to generate more savings, Healthbase recommends seeking long-term accommodation in service apartments instead of hotels as the former cost much less.

Even with higher expenses on accommodation factored into the cost, the resulting savings on treating cancer abroad can amount to approximately 40-80% when compared with the cost of treatment in the United States. For an accurate cost estimate and arrangement of cancer treatment abroad, check out the Healthbase website.

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