Cancer Debt

Cancer debt comes with a diagnosis and the inability to pay your house payments, utilities, your bills. Often times patients don’t keep up with their car. Their car breaks down. They are low on gas, and  food because they are unable to work.

In a May 10 article in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, they surveyed 555 patients in Washington State who had colon cancer between 2008-2010. Of the patients, 284 were insured. 38% experienced extreme financial hardship such as selling or refinancing their homes, their income dropped by at least 20%, they borrowed money from family and friends and even went into debt to finance their care.

In another study of 930 cancer patients through Fred Hutchinson Research Center in Seattle, patients reported 11% inability to pay for their basic needs as food, heat or housing due to cancer treatments.

As we know a typical eight weeks of chemo can run $30,000.00 unless you go on a clinical trial. I remember when my husband had prostate cancer. It was at least 60-$70,000.00. (I never saw the total bill.) It is one thing to have cancer but the grief is only confounded with the financial obligations, the bill collectors, the clinics and hospitals, bill collectors turning the patient into collection agencies. In many cases, it is about that bottom dollar.

In our country we do more and longer treatments compared to other countries. We need to look at the studies and make some major changes.  We need personalized medicine and treatments. Who should have chemo? Who should not have chemo? Who should have their radiation rads cut down? Should everyone be over diagnosed and be given every possible test?

It is hard on the cancer doctors who follow guidelines in this country. They see some patients being over treated, under treated due to the insurance issue, and those who die.

When will we reduce the toxicity in patients, the over treatment, the over diagnosis? We have come a long way but at what cost? There is that emotional piece that is so important to patients. There is that piece of mind that everything will be okay, they will survive, they will feel better, and they will not burden their families. Some treatments do kill patients. A friend of mine use to say, “If the cancer doesn’t kill me, the chemo will.”

If you want to give to breast cancer patients this holiday season, consider Circle of Hope. Make a donation as you choose to designate  to the organization. They pay breast cancer treatment bills and do some bill paying as money is designated. Check out the website. There are donor specific accounts, naming accounts, and much more. Give a gift of Hope this season.