CANCER patients are facing demands that they hand over €75 each time they arrive at hospital to pay for chemotherapy, leading to fears that some may stop attending for treatment because of the "cash on delivery" demand.
The patients affected by the new payment demands being made at hospitals all over the country are those who do not qualify for a medical card and who do not have health insurance.
According to the Irish Cancer Society, the issue has emerged on their helplines in the past few weeks.
The society's Kathleen O'Meara said: "It is a very worrying situation.
"These outpatients are being asked to pay up front for chemotherapy treatment at €75 a go.
"This is happening in Dublin and outside Dublin in other hospitals.
"They are being asked to pay immediately. This appears to be an HSE directive sent out to all hospitals. It's not just one or two hospitals."
Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells, which develop and divide quickly
The patients facing demands for payment up front have usually received primary cancer treatment as in-patients and have then moved to outpatient status, which may include a number of sessions of chemotherapy as a follow-up.
Ms O Meara said: "Payment for chemotherapy is not new. What is new is that the demand is being made for immediate payment at the hospital.
"We are deeply worried that some people will decide not to continue with their treatment. We would be very concerned about this."
The society said many cancer patients are struggling to cover the living costs associated with their illness.
Applications to the society's financial aid scheme have increased by 36 per cent in the past three years and now accounts for an annual spend of more than €1m.
The charity expects this figure to increase next year.
Earlier this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that Ireland could experience a 72 per cent rise in the number of cancer cases by 2030.
It estimates the country will have 33,416 new cases of cancer in that year, making it the biggest predicted rise of all 27 EU member states.
An annual average of 2,800 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2008 and 2009.
Ireland had the fourth highest estimated breast cancer incidence and mortality of EU states in 2008
Earlier this month, the Irish Cancer Society confirmed it had received a one-off €2.5m bequest from a mystery donor last year.
As a condition of the bequest, the identity of the deceased donor will not be disclosed.
A spokeswoman said €1m of the money was used to fund the society's grant to the State to support the roll-out of bowel screening.
The balance was used to significantly increase spending on cancer research last year, when the total spend was €3.4m.