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Money Troubles after Cancer

Posted 3/28/2014

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  It seems completely unfair that any other problems, meaning anything other than health, should accompany or follow cancer. Sadly, we all know that is not the case, and most people face some combination of physical, emotional, sexual, professional, existential, and financial difficulties. The financial ones can be both things that are directly related to cancer treatment (co-pays, high deductibles, or generally poor insurance) and lots of associated costs (parking, increased child care, and the biggies related to reduced income).

  Most of us depend on our jobs for our financial well-being. Cancer certainly means some reduced or missed time, and it often means a rather long medical leave. Some of us are fortunate to have pretty good benefits and can depend on sick time and, if needed, short or long term disability. Plenty of people, however, don't have those benefits and, if they don't work, they don't get paid. Coming at this from a slightly different angle, I have also known women who lost their jobs directly or indirectly due to cancer. Yes, I know, they know, this is illegal, but just try to prove it. An employer can always point at other reasons for the termination: down-sizing, larger layoffs, a change of job responsibilities, etc.

  This is a disturbing article from that suggests that 25% of women treated for breast cancer face negative financial implications. That's huge and that is outrageous. Here it is:

25% of Breast Cancer Survivors Report Financial Decline Due to Treatment

Four years after being treated for breast cancer, a quarter of survivors say they are worse off financially, at least partly because of their treatment, according to a new
study led by University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers.
In addition, 12 percent reported that they still have medical debt from their treatment.
Financial decline varied significantly by race, with Spanish-speaking Latinas most likely to be impacted. Debt was reported more frequently in English-speaking Latinas and Blacks, the study found. Results appear in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
"As oncologists, we are proud of the advances in our ability to cure an increasing proportion of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. But as treatments improve, we must ensure that we do not leave these patients in financial ruin because of our efforts,"
says study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
The researchers surveyed women in Detroit and Los Angeles who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, based on data obtained from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results population-based registry. Women were surveyed about nine months after diagnosis and again about four years later, with 1,502 women responding to both surveys.


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