When you are diagnosed with cancer your life is put on full stop. It may be for a moment, or an hour, or much longer. Depending upon the diagnosis and treatment plan, your living situation, and your emotional state, you may rebound quickly or not at all. My experience has been, for sure, that you and your family will take a financial hit. There is a very clear and sometimes devastating financial hardship when you are diagnosed with cancer.
I got to thinking about this as I recently interviewed Dr. Veena Shankaran from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Dr. Shankaran has received a research grant to study the financial hardships experienced across the US by families coping with a diagnosis of advanced colorectal cancer. This is just the beginning of an effort to, as she explains, “understand the whole patient” and in terms far beyond their tumor type or whether it has spread. Have patients had to give up their jobs? Have they lost their retirements? Have they gone into bankruptcy? Too often the answer is yes.
My own experience has been this: Even if you have grade A insurance to cover doctor and hospital bills, prescriptions, other treatments and tests, you and your loved ones lose financial strength because all of you are less productive, or not productive at all. You may need to pay people to provide services for you and your family and you may need emotional support at an extra cost. You may have travel costs that are extraordinary and not reimbursed. And what if you have poor or no insurance? It’s even worse.
Medicines are getting more expensive, especially with new treatments for cancer. Yes, there are breakthroughs and they may well keep you alive and help you to live well. That’s something we must celebrate. But the financial side of cancer remains tough, and with new medicines, and even combinations of new medicines, may get even tougher. We need to find some solutions that keep pace with this so people touched by cancer can concentrate on getting well.
I welcome your comments.
Wishing you and your family the best of health!
Andrew is the author of the new book The Web-Savvy Patient: An Insider's Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis. He is a respected medical journalist and 15-year leukemia survivor. He founded healthtalk.com and patientpower.info and has hosted almost 3,000 online talk shows for patients with chronic conditions and cancers. Many of America's leading medical centers support ...