Caribou: Financial Toxicity For Cancer Patients

August 18, 2020



August 18, 2020

The financial struggles that are faced by cancer patients, known as financial toxicity, can have severe consequences. It can impact your quality of life, your health and your access to the care and treatment you need. 

Whether you call it financial stress, financial hardship or financial burden, dealing with financial toxicity affects millions of cancer patients in America. With over 15 million cancer survivors facing long term costs throughout survivorship, cancer has become one of the most expensive diseases in America. In fact, cancer patients and survivors are more likely to have financial toxicity than people without cancer.

Understanding the effects and the factors that contribute to financial toxicity is essential to help you prepare, plan and know who to reach out to if assistance is needed to cover your cancer bills and expenses. 

What is Financial Toxicity?

Financial toxicity refers to the financial factors or problems a cancer patient has related to the cost of treatment. It describes how the amount you pay that is not covered by your health insurance, called out-of-pocket costs, can cause financial struggles. 

As a cancer patient, your treatment plan may involve multiple types of treatments, including prescription medication, surgery and radiation therapy. With treatments becoming more and more expensive, financial toxicity is a common problem for cancer patients. Even with health insurance, you are more likely to pay higher premiums than in the past and your copayments for prescription drugs covered by health insurance may increase over time. 

Factors that can cause Financial Toxicity 

The amount of financial toxicity you may experience depends on several factors,  including the following:

  • How much money other people in your household make

  • How much debt you had before you were diagnosed with cancer

  • Your assets

  • Costs related to your cancer

  • How the cancer and its treatment affect your ability to work

  • Whether you have health and/or disability insurance and what they cover

On top of that, having cancer could limit your ability to work and earn an income. You may feel too tired, sick or weak to be able to work your normal hours.  A decrease in work days could lower your income and could affect your employer-based health insurance, putting you at greater risk of financial toxicity. 

There are certain situations when a person may be at a greater risk of financial toxicity.  These risk factors include: 

  • The type of cancer you have, how severe it is, and the treatment you receive.

  • Your age, race, income, and whether you have a job.

  • Your health insurance plan (or lack thereof)

Knowing the risk factors in advance can help you prepare and plan to cover your cancer bills and expenses.

Ways to Limit or Eliminate Financial Toxicity 

Understanding and confronting financial toxicity is important for all cancer patients to consider. This is because financial toxicity can lead to:

  • Debt and bankruptcy 

  • The reduction of medicine intake to save money on copayments 

  • Friends and family sharing the negative impact of financial toxicity

When dealing with financial toxicity, patients and families should speak with professionals, such as a Healthcare Advisor, as they have the resources and guidance to help you overcome your financial burdens in regards to cancer.  You may consider speaking with a Healthcare Advisor to:

  • Teach you about the health insurance plans and cost-saving methods for treatments that you are eligible for.

  • Help you determine higher-value treatments with lower out-of-pocket costs

  • Guide you if you are considering consulting with your health insurer or place of work about financial assistance options