Alleviating the financial burden of cancer

By Autumn Dube, Content Manager, Family Reach

The moment a family hears the word “cancer,” everything changes. Getting the kids ready for school, running errands, and morning meetings that once marked daily life are replaced with weekly, sometimes daily, doctors’ visits.

A new routine quickly emerges, one that often results in a patient pressing pause on their life. This sudden loss of income paired with an increase in expenses due to treatment—like medication copays, hospital parking and medical supplies—can lead to financial insecurity, and even bankruptcy.

The term for this is Cancer-Related Financial Toxicity (CRFT) and it’s a crisis impacting 73 percent of adult cancer patients across the country. Patients experiencing cancer-related financial toxicity have to make difficult decisions, like whether to pay their mortgage or skip treatment, go to physical therapy or put food on the table.

According to a report from CancerCare, approximately 38 percent of patients postpone or do not fill their drug prescriptions; 31 percent cut oral medications in half; and 29 percent skip doctors’ appointments entirely to save money. The results can be devastating, putting the success of the patients’ treatment in jeopardy.

Helping patients in the throes of financial toxicity

Patients, especially those living in rural areas, often have to travel hours to access cancer treatment on a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis. The cost of gas and hospital parking—which can reach upwards of $40 per day—quickly adds up.

These financial implications are exacerbated for patients participating in clinical trials, who frequently have to cross state lines to access care. According to recent studies, patients who travel more than two hours to their treatment facility experience 40 percent more financial difficulty than those with a shorter commute.

Family Reach, an organization alleviating the financial burden of cancer for patients across the country, offers in-kind hotel stays to cancer patients in need of overnight accommodations.

A systemic solution to cancer-related financial toxicity

In addition to difficulties accessing affordable accommodations near treatment, many patients struggle to stay in their own homes. Approximately 35 percent of patients are more likely to foreclose on their house three years following a cancer diagnosis. Five years post-diagnosis, that number rises to 65 percent.

But that’s not all. Cancer-related home loan defaults lead to an average loss of 14 points on a patient’s credit score within the three years following a diagnosis.

Family Reach has also launched a mortgage modification program to help qualifying patients before they reach critical financial breaking points. Still in its early stages, this pilot program will work to lower or delay monthly loan payments.

With this proactive approach, patients are better equipped to avoid slipping into the throes of financial toxicity and remain in their home during these vital years.