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The Dreaded 'C' Diagnosis and Bankruptcy


Physicians are all too familiar with the physical toll cancer takes on patients. However, doctors must also be aware of the increasing financial toll that comes with the diagnosis.

Practice Management, Personal Finance, Oncology, Prescription Drugs

The rising of costs of care for cancer patients and their families has been markedly considerable in recent years. The rate is increasing at two to three times that of other healthcare costs. A recently published study by Banegas et al surveyed 4,917 working-age cancer survivors to get a better understanding of the rising costs.

The results are striking and give a glimpse into the personal cost of the dreaded "C" diagnosis that already carries a heavy load without any help. As out-of-pocket payment structures continue to be shifted more and more to the consumer this will continue to be an important area to watch as we work to prevent, treat, and empathize with all who are caring for loved ones diagnosed with cancer.

In the study, of those that admitted going into debt or facing financial hardships due to depleted savings, the most common out-of-pocket expenses reported where those for transportation, medical expenses, and lodging in that respective order.

As the cost of novel pharmaceutical agents rises so will the treatment costs. In some instances, treatment with some novel agents can cost up to $60,000 per month. The average cost per agent from a broader perspective is now estimated to be roughly around $10,000. This cost has doubled in the last decade to its current cost.

The average cost per agent from a broader perspective is now estimated to be roughly around $10,000. This cost has doubled in the last decade to its current cost.

Upon receiving a cancer diagnosis, a cancer patient can expect to incur on average about $1,107 in out of pocket expenses, and about $747 annually. This cost will vary from patient to patient due to their respective insurance coverage. Some families experience upwards of $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses during the first month alone. It is easy to see how this can quickly result in financial hardships.

Cancer, Cost of Care, Practice Management, Personal Finance, Oncology, Prescription Drugs, Health Finance

There is also the insensible cost of lost labor for both the patient and the caregivers, which is undoubtedly difficult to estimate and likely amounts to much more to our system as a whole.

There are agencies that are working to continually provide support and resources for patients as well as their caregivers.

One such agency which I have the honor of working with as a Cancer Prevention Fellow is the American Cancer Society. ACS provides resources such as the HOPE lodge that provides free housing for patients receiving treatment.

The following are some resources that are working to improve the Cost Burden incurred by cancer care:

  • American Cancer Society
  • Cancer Care.org
  • Cancer.net
  • GiveForward.com
  • Susan G.Komen
  • HealthFinder.gov

The National Cancer Institute predicts that by 2020, there will be 18.1 million cancer survivors. The annual cost of care is estimated to be $157 billion (based on the value of a dollar in 2010). A lot of these costs are being attributed largely to our aging population and its growth.

What other resources exist and what do you think can be done to help with this issue?


American Cancer Society

Health Affairs


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