Financial Toxicity in Cancer Patients
When we hear the dreaded word cancer, money is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. But if you ask survivors or the families of patients, they will tell you that treating cancer is expensive. When a cancer patient does not have health insurance, or when there are extensive costs of care not covered by their health insurance, there is a real financial risk to the patient. These financial problems – which range from financial stress, debt, and even bankruptcy – can be devastating to not only patients themselves, but also to their families.
The term for problems related to the cost of medical care is financial toxicity.
Financial toxicity is not unique to cancer, but cancer patients are among the most likely to experience it. Not only is cancer treatment expensive, but cancer is also a disease that can affect your ability to work, which further debilitates patients financially.
Often, families will attempt to pick up the slack and work longer hours or take on personal debt of their own to help pay for the treatment of someone they love. This added financial strain to individuals and families already dealing with intense medical and emotional trauma is heartbreaking, and is a reality that needs to be talked about more.
When first diagnosed with cancer, the urge to seek the best treatment possible regardless of cost is an absolutely understandable reaction. Avoiding treatment because the costs are too high is not a solution to this problem. However, avoiding the financial reality of treating cancer is also not a solution. Everyone’s circumstance is different, but simply having the conversation of cost of care early on with your doctor will help lead you on a clearer path. A path where even if you are affected deeply by financial strain, you will not be blindsided by it.