What We’re Reading: The Everyday Impacts of Financial Toxicity on the Cancer Community
The financial burden of cancer looks different for every patient and family. Taking a stronger toll on some more than others, financial toxicity seeps its way into everyday life — missing bills, worrying if there will be enough food on the table or gas in the tank, leaving a child at the treatment center to go to work.
The more we talk about these everyday impacts of financial toxicity, the closer we get to a world where financial care is a standard of cancer treatment.
From journal articles to patient-written blogs and podcasts, here are some recent perspectives on the many impacts of financial toxicity.
This article paints a picture of cancer we know all too well at Family Reach: families cutting back on groceries, struggling to afford housing, and even skipping medicine to save money during treatment.
Many believe that we can change this harsh reality of financial toxicity if talking about the cost of cancer becomes just as common as medical conversations. The voices from the medical community in this article specifically advocate for increasing physician-patient discussions about treatment options and empowering healthcare teams with more education about the cost of cancer care.
Read the full article.
“It’s standard of care*, where the asterisk means, ‘if you can afford it,” says cancer hero Martha Carlson about mental health therapy during cancer treatment.
As Martha reflects on her personal experience with cancer costs, she calls for a more expansive understanding of financial toxicity. For her, the financial burden of cancer is not just about the families who rack up debt as they struggle to hold onto their homes and cars. Financial toxicity can also look like sacrificing specialist appointments in order to balance copays.
The smaller costs of mental health therapy, acupuncture appointments, or high-nutrient foods can add up week after week. Though they help with recovery, patients often sacrifice these “standards of care” out of financial concern, opting instead to prioritize prescriptions, treatment bills, and everyday living costs.
Read Martha’s perspective on everyday financial toxicity.
Research shows that a cancer diagnosis often leads to employment changes for both patients and caregivers. Whether it’s cutting down on hours or stopping work completely, the reduced income increases the risk of financial burdens that lead to bankruptcy, poor treatment adherence, and lower survival rates.
In this commentary, the authors suggest that documenting employment details could spark helpful discussions between providers and patients. Together, they can proactively plan for rehabilitation needs, side effects management, and treatment schedules that minimize the impact on work. As a result, these conversations could lessen the negative health effects of employment changes during or after cancer treatment.
Completed in partnership with the UCSF Medical Center to evaluate the impact of financial interventions on the cancer community, Family Reach’s latest research was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The findings revealed that more than 50% of the surveyed cancer patients and caregivers experienced significant financial stress during treatment. More specifically, Black and Hispanic/Latino families experience more financial distress than White families during cancer treatment, which lowers their chances of survival.
After receiving financial assistance from Family Reach, cancer patients and caregivers reported less financial stress, allowing them to focus on recovery and treatment adherence.
Family Reach CEO Carla Tardif and patient advocate Rifka Coleman joined the You Matter! Podcast to engage in meaningful dialogue about the human side of cancer.
Before she was connected with Family Reach, Rifka almost stopped her chemotherapy because she didn’t want bankrupt her family. Thankfully, she had the courage to speak up and was put in touch with Family Reach for financial support and resource navigation.
As Rifka beautifully shares her story throughout the episode, Carla complements Rifka’s voice with her own perspectives on financial toxicity.
Listen to the episode.
As Communications Coordinator, Mary creates and promotes content that spreads the word about Family Reach’s mission. Mary brings her love of storytelling to her work, and a commitment to a world where socioeconomic status doesn’t determine chances of survival.
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