How Can Cancer Patients & Family Members Manage the Costs of Treatment

Previous studies have shown that genetic and lifestyle factors such as alcohol and tobacco use, diet, lack of physical activity, or overweight increase cancer risk. Occupational exposure to cancer-causing agents is associated with a substantial and often overlooked burden of cancer that is almost entirely preventable. Although the incidence of cancers related to workplace exposures has decreased due to safety regulations, inhalation of airborne substances (dust, gases, vapors, or chemicals) can increase cancer risk in those who are frequently exposed.

A pink ribbon signifying breast cancer

When a loved one develops cancer, the family’s risk of financial burden becomes very high. Cancer survivors are more likely to report medical financial hardship than those without a cancer history. The huge financial impact of cancer affects both family budgets and patients’ health.

Direct medical expenses are only part of the total costs of cancer. Additional expenses do not relate to the treatment itself, but they may occur as a consequence and include lost income, premature retirement, caregiving costs, transportation expenses, and the cost of lodging. The high treatment costs add emotional distress and financial hardship to cancer patients and their families.

The different kinds of costs related to cancer care include:

  • Material – problems paying the expenses associated with disease treatment
  • Psychological – patients who get into financial difficulty suffer high rates of emotional distress
  • Behavioral – which might include forgoing or delaying beneficial cancer care because of cost concerns

According to the National Cancer Institute, between 33 percent and 80 percent of cancer survivors exhaust their savings to finance medical expenses. Patients who get into financial difficulty as a result of their cancer diagnosis suffer high rates of negative quality-of-life and psychosocial consequences, including distress, anxiety, depression, and a reduced sense of well-being.

The Costs of Cancer Reflecting Surveillance and Treatment Increase Significantly With the Onset of Complications

Because of the variation in treatment, it is difficult to estimate the total costs for any cancer patient at the time of diagnosis. There are many approaches to treating cancer, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. For cancer involving surgery, the cost depends heavily on the specific treatment center and the surgical techniques used.

Surgery in progress

Some patients will receive only one treatment, while others will have a combination of treatments. Costs vary depending on the treatment type and extent of the disease. For instance, for someone with stage 3 lung cancer, treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells, and the cost can total as high as $12,000 a month, or even more. In the most severe cases, lung cancer patients may be candidates for a lung transplant. The cost of lung transplantation surgery is between $430,000 and $580,000, depending on whether the procedure involves one or both lungs. A health insurance policy will cover some of the costs of transplant, but not all of them.

Due to the Inability to Afford Medical Expenses, Cancer Patients Are Prone to Delaying Care

While all physicians outline potential side effects and complications, treatment options, integrative health care approaches, and regular medical checkups, they often do not talk about cost of care with patients or have been wary about these discussions.

The cancer cost adds significant stress to a patient’s battle against the disease – a condition referred to as “financial toxicity”. According to recent data, more than 40% of cancer patients who had savings spent all of their money during the first two years of treatment. This is an alarming statistic, given that a quarter of cancer suffers said they had no savings at all to rely on. Ultimately, this leaves too many people at risk of incurring significant debt and falling into serious financial hardship or to delay care because of inability to afford medical expenses. Those who struggle often give up on going to medical appointments because of the cost of transportation, cutting back on food, education and/or defaulting on bill payments.

Resources Dedicated to Financially Assisting Cancer Patients

Financial stress decreases patients’ quality of life by creating difficulty in affording treatment and/or rapidly depleting savings and resources. Although help often is available for cancer patients who face financial stress, many do not know whom to ask or where to look. It’s important that patients with cancer associated with workplace exposure to various chemicals know they can discuss their financial and legal aspects with a trustworthy lawyer who will explain all available avenues for filing a legal claim for compensation.

A legal gavel and scales of justice

Those who have been employed by industries that put workers at high risk for cancer, such as shipbuilding, power generation, manufacturing, construction, and coal mine during the past century and received a diagnosis of cancer, they might be eligible to file a claim for compensation. Finding an experienced lawyer can make the legal process hassle-free and allow them to put the main focus on their health while also knowing that their financial solutions are in capable hands.

“We work on a contingency-fee-basis, which is a payment arrangement that allows a claimant who has been injured to obtain legal representation even if he/she doesn’t have money to pay a lawyer at the beginning of their case. Sometimes, very sadly, a person who has been diagnosed with cancer does not survive to see the conclusion of their claim. Where this happens, we will continue to leverage every tool at our disposal to bring the claim to a speedy resolution. Of course, nothing we can do could alleviate the devastating effects of losing a loved one, but when the family is ready, we can continue to pursue the case on behalf of the next of kin to ensure that we collect the maximum settlement monies available so that the financial impact of their premature death is lessened as much as possible”, says Gregory A. Cade an attorney specialized in Environmental and Occupational Law who has successfully helped thousands of cancer patients to get access to compensation they deserve.

A study that examined the impact of the financial burden of cancer on survivors’ quality of life concluded that “increased financial burden as a result of cancer care costs is the strongest independent predictor of poor quality of life among cancer survivors“.

The longer someone survives after a diagnosis, the more worrying the debts will become. Therefore, it is imperative that the resources available to assist them are part of the discussion around navigating cancer survivorship.

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