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Cancer in Thailand for Expats: Prevalence, treatment, and covering costs

If there’s one disease that tops people’s lists of conditions they do not want to develop, it’s cancer. In Thailand, just as in the rest of the world, cancer is a growing concern as the country develops and risk factors become more prominent. This can be especially true for expats in the country, whose age, affluence, and lifestyles can all raise their risk of developing malignant cancer. In honor of World Cancer Day 2022, this Pacific Prime Thailand article covers everything you need to know about cancer in Thailand.

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Prevalence of cancer in Thailand

When you examine the prevalence of cancer in any country, it’s important to look at the underlying risk factors that can lead to cancer. On a worldwide scale, some of the largest identified risk factors include genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. These include:

  • Family incidence of cancer
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sedentary living
  • Exposure to the sun or radiation
  • Exposure to chemicals or other toxic substances
  • Viruses or bacteria
  • Hormones
  • Chronic inflammation

Being aware of these things can help minimize your risk. While some behaviors are simply out of our control, we have the option to either engage in or avoid others.

With that said, Thailand is a place where many people are free to drink, smoke, eat and sunbathe as they see fit. But people in Thailand are by no means immune to cancer and other diseases. Be sure to check out our expat’s guide to vaccinations in Thailand before going on a weekend trip to rural areas.

New cancer cases in Thailand

In 2020 alone, there were 190,636 new cancer cases in Thailand. By 2040, the Global Cancer Observatory predicts that there will be 290,000 new cancer cases. So, what are the most common cancers in Thailand? Let’s have a look at the breakdowns based on gender.

Men

Based on the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 2020 fact sheet on the incidence of cancer in Thailand, the incidence of cancer in Thailand is far below that in the United States. Still, among men in Thailand the most common types of cancer (and their acknowledged risk factors) are:

  • Liver and bile duct – These types of cancer are caused by damage from birth defects, hereditary hemochromatosis disease, cirrhosis, alcohol abuse, or infectious diseases like hepatitis.
  • Trachea, lung, and bronchus – The most prominent risk factor linked to all of these types of cancer is smoking tobacco products. Additionally, cancer in non-smokers can be caused by air pollution, radon inhalation, secondhand smoke, or breathing in other substances like chemical fumes, asbestos, or vehicle exhaust.
  • Colon and rectum – Risk factors for bowel cancers include chronic inflammation, a history of polyps, and potentially diets rich in red and processed meats and poor in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Women

Similarly, there are differences in the top three most common cancers in Thailand for women. These include:

  • Breast – The largest risk factors for developing breast cancer are being female, having a family history of breast cancer, and age. Others include obesity, alcohol intake, undergoing hormone therapy, never having been pregnant, beginning your period at a young age, and exposure to radiation.
  • Colon and rectum – Risk factors for bowel cancers include chronic inflammation, a history of polyps, and potentially diets rich in red and processed meats and poor in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Cervix uteri – Risk factors for cervical cancer include HPV infection, smoking, early sexual contact, having many sexual partners, taking birth control pills, and smoking.

What’s more, lung cancer in Thailand is a common illness that affects both men and women and is curable if diagnosed early enough.

Treatment locations

There are a number of quality international hospitals in Thailand that have oncological specialists on hand and provide top-notch cancer treatment. Even so, you would first want to get a health or cancer screening at a top medical hospital for a diagnosis. You can then go to the one nearest to you for treatment. Conversely, you can find a facility in the country that you feel will best address your needs. Here are the top choices for cancer treatment in some of Thailand’s most popular cities for expats:

Bangkok

  • Bangkok Hospital
  • Bumrungrad Hospital
  • BNH Hospital
  • Vejthani Hospital
  • Chaophya Hospital
  • Sukhumvit Hospital
  • Sikarin Hospital

Pattaya

  • Bangkok Hospital Pattaya
  • Chonburi Cancer Hospital
  • Thonburi Hospital

Chiang Mai

  • Chiangmai Ram Hospital
  • Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai

Phuket

  • Bangkok Hospital Phuket

The cost of cancer treatment in Thailand

Compared to many other countries in the world, Thailand has extremely affordable healthcare. That’s why it has become one of the world’s top medical tourism destinations, especially within the Asia-Pacific region. But is this the case for cancer treatment as well?

Those with access to government-funded healthcare can get treatment for a very low price. However, when compared with private international hospitals in Thailand, treatment in public facilities can come with:

  • More red tape
  • Longer wait times
  • Inferior medical technology
  • Less medical expertise

There’s no doubt that when your life hangs in the balance, you’ll want to go to a hospital that provides the best treatment Thailand has to offer, even though the treatment costs will be considerably higher.

When it comes to getting treatment in private hospitals, it is estimated that cancer treatment in Thailand will cost 60-70% less than it would in private hospitals in the US or UK. Expats in Thailand may find staying in the country for cancer treatment to be their best option, but even at 70% of the US price, we could still be looking at charges approaching USD $10,000 per month!

Protect yourself with health insurance from Pacific Prime

There are simply too many factors at play to completely protect yourself from cancer. Based on some people’s genetics and lifestyle, developing cancer is something that may just be a matter of time. However, what you can protect yourself from are the high costs that can come with cancer treatment in Thailand.

The best way to address potential medical costs is through private health insurance or international health insurance plans. Fortunately, you can easily find the best expat health insurance in Thailand for your needs by working with a leading insurance broker like Pacific Prime Thailand – along with any other type of health insurance plan. Our advisors take the time to compare the top available policies on the market according to your details.

Contact us for impartial insurance advice or to get a free quote today.

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