Financial Hardships of Cancer Patients and Their Families

financial hardshipsA cancer diagnosis changes lives forever. Not only does it affect the individual diagnosed, it directly affects their family in several different ways also, including a heavy financial burden. Although there have been many advances in treatments resulting in an increase in the number of survivors, many of these survivors (about a third) have reported experiencing substantial financial hardships due to their diagnosis. From the stress of cancer treatment costs and medications to the non-medical expenses like gas, food, special coverings, masks and clothing, the financial toll can oftentimes feel crushing both mentally and physically.

It’s also important to note the family members who take on these hardships as well. Oftentimes, family and caregivers give up their time to care for the patient, which can result in less hours dedicated to work and an adjustment to their employment. The outcome of this can include loss of employment, a decline in income or even loss of insurance.

Study Findings
A recent study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at the financial, material and psychological burden associated with cancer in the United States and the results were quite astounding. Cancer patients between the ages of 18-64 found that their hardships required them to make many financial sacrifices and forgo their savings, spending and in extreme cases, their living situations. This left many of them in debt, filing for bankruptcy and in a constant state of worry about their finances.

Another study done by researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University estimated that a cancer patient’s out-of-pocket expenses could average anywhere from $1,730 to $4,727 per year based on the type of insurance they had. The stress of these cancer treatment costs posed a risk for long-lasting physical and mental effects because patients started skipping treatments and avoiding filling prescriptions in order to keep the costs down. Not only is this life-threatening to a patient, if their cancer has been eradicated, it presents the very real possibility of it returning.

Cancer Patients and Quality of Life
While these statistics are startling, researchers also compared their findings to patients who did not struggle with the financial burden of cancer. They found that patients and survivors who did struggle had a lower quality of life, oftentimes at high risk for depression and psychological distress, with their physical and mental health suffering greatly. Cancer patients in the worst situation are the ones who must borrow money or declare bankruptcy. Research has estimated that out of the estimated 18 million cases worldwide, 1.5 million patients are in this situation.

While we recognize the financial burden of cancer is expensive, at the HEADstrong Foundation we want to help ease that burden. Our goal has always been to help cancer patients and their families directly. Through Nick’s House, charity events, runs, volunteer work, and hundreds of thousands of donation dollars, we’ve been able to provide the necessary financial assistance for cancer patients during their time of need. To learn more about what we do at the HEADstrong Foundation or how you can directly help the lives of cancer patients and their families, visit our website.