What Is the Financial Impact of Cancer?
Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact answer, or number, to this question because every patient, diagnosis and treatment is unique. At Aynjil, we know that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t just affect the patient, it impacts the entire family. And the impact is so much more than financial, a cancer diagnosis and the treatment that follows affects the mind and the body, leaving a person changed forever.
Read on to find out how a cancer diagnosis can impact you or your loved one physically and financially:
What is the Impact of Cancer on Patients?
A cancer diagnosis alone has a huge effect on a patient’s life and mental health. A recent cancer diagnosis shock can lead to depression, anxiety, and even physical ailments unrelated to their cancer, like headaches/migraines, an upset stomach, ulcers, body pains, and sleeplessness. All of these symptoms can make everyday tasks, like going to work, feel impossible. Once a patient starts treatment, physical weakness, nausea, and fatigue can magnify these feelings, causing frustration, moodiness, helplessness, and anger.
However, it’s important to note that cancer impacts everyone differently, and not everyone has the same reaction to lifestyle changes, treatments, medications, and stress. Some cancer patients may continue to work and visit the workplace throughout their diagnosis, treatment and recovery to maintain a stable income. While others may lose their source of stable income due to ongoing absenteeism for treatments and doctor’s visits, or because they are too ill to work, a common financial impact of cancer that leads to some patients refusing treatment and fore-going medical assistance.
The Financial Impact of Cancer on Families
There are many costs involved when it comes to fighting or living with cancer. This is because cancer diagnosis, treatments and recovery/remission are all very costly, even with medical aid to assist the patient. This financial strain often places a lot of stress on patients and their families.
How Does Cancer Affect You Financially?
The financial impact of cancer can vary depending on factors such as the patient’s age, the type of cancer, the stage, other existing conditions, and the treatment and medication options available for the recommended treatment plan advised by the patient’s doctors.
For example, a patient diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer may only need surgery as treatment, while someone diagnosed with Leukemia (blood cancer) might need long-term treatments and medications.
Other costs that aren’t directly related to the patient’s cancer diagnosis also impact a family’s budget. For example, the cost of transport or fuel to and from appointments, psychotherapy sessions to help manage stress and mental health, child care, or at-home assistance can all cut into household finances leaving families in debt or sometimes destitute.
According to research carried out by The Johns Hopkins University, 30% of cancer survivors report financial hardship. This is because high treatment prices and the extra costs for various blood tests, lab tests, medications, and specialist visits throughout the patient’s fight with cancer accumulate and compound.
Possible Expenses Linked to a Cancer Diagnosis
The Medical Expenses of Cancer
Numerous medical expenses can follow a cancer diagnosis. Cancer is one of the most costly medical conditions to treat and survive. According to studies, cancer care costs rise at almost 2-3 times the rate of other health care costs. Making cancer one of the most expensive illnesses to treat, manage, live with or survive.
Here are some examples of what a person with cancer may need to spend money on before, during and after their treatment, depending on their specific type of cancer, the stage, their treatment plan, and their needs:
- Medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen tanks, etc.
- General Practitioner (GP) visits
- Specialist (Oncology) visits
- First aid supplies, such as disinfectant, gauze, bandages, etc.
- First aid training
- Prescription and over-the-counter medication
- In-hospital treatments, such as Chemotherapy or Radiation, etc.
- Scans, such as Mammograms, CT scans, X-rays, etc.
- Surgery & reconstructive surgery
- Blood and lab tests
- Prosthetics, such as breast prostheses
The Lifestyle Expenses Following a Cancer Diagnosis
These are possible extra lifestyle costs a cancer patient may have to face during their fight with the illness:
- Food, due to recommended changes in diet
- Accommodation, if travelling for treatment
- Higher utility bills, due to more time spent at home
- At-home assistance, such as a carer or a nurse
- Child care, such as a babysitter, tutor, au pair, nanny etc.
- Exercise classes, like yoga or pilates, etc.
- Sports equipment, such as yoga balls, elastic resistance band, etc.
- Group activities/classes, such as art classes, creative writing, scrapbooking, etc.
- Changes or additions to toiletries due to harmful chemicals or new needs
- Changes in household cleaning products due to harmful chemicals
- New clothing to accommodate weight gain or loss or a need for increased comfort
- Wigs or hairpieces
- A scale to keep track of weight
- Household items, such as back support pillows, mastectomy pillows, bed/lap trays, reading lamps etc.
- Miscellaneous items, such as pill holders, water bottles, blankets for comfort, diaries, art supplies, etc.
- Alterations or construction, due to ‘assistance’ button/intercom installations, additions of assistance rails, etc.
The Financial Impact of Cancer on Families
As we mentioned previously, all these costs, big and small, pile up, and the financial impact of cancer can end up crippling households. Families may have to forego luxuries, like holidays, and even essentials, favouring paying the increased lifestyle and medical expenses incurred by the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
In some cases, however, the cost of cancer can snowball and have such a severe effect on a family’s finances that the medical bills can completely cripple the patient’s ability to continue with or receive further treatment for their cancer, pay for a roof over their heads, feed their household, or send their children to school.
This predicament is commonly known as financial toxicity or FT in medicine. The term describes problems patients have related to their medical care cost, which causes financial problems leading to debt and bankruptcy.
Can Cancer Patients Get Financial Help?
Yes! Professional financial services can help with planning for and managing the financial impact of cancer on a family.
Seeking assistance from financial advisors, financial planners or debt counsellors is highly recommended. Their advice, paired with medical aid and gap cover, is a great way to ensure treatments and other costs don’t leave patients and their loved ones in debilitating debt or completely bankrupt.
Below we’ve listed each professional service that offers financial assistance, and explain how they can help cancer patients in need:
1. Financial Planners / Advisors
Financial planners or advisors create long term strategies for building wealth and eliminating financial risk, from household budgeting to saving for retirement. They help with all types of financial planning and management, including financial record-keeping, investments, tax planning, asset allocation, risk management, retirement and estate planning, and wealth transfer.
2. Debt Counsellors
Debt counsellors provide the formal legal processes needed for an over-indebted declaration. They negotiate a restructured payment plan, and they obtain the necessary legal documents, such as court orders, confirming a new repayment plan.
3. Medical Aid
Medical aid covers day-to-day healthcare costs and/or hospital costs for hospitalisation, dental work, medicines, therapies, and treatments. The cover is dependent on a type of medical aid plan and medical scheme.
4. Gap Cover
Gap cover provides extra financial protection for those already with medical aid. It can help cover co-payments or medical aid shortfalls on specialist visits, treatments, therapies, and medications.
How Can Cancer Insurance Help a Patient Financially?
Ultimately, a cancer insurance policy can assist a patient and their family by covering cancer-related costs that aren’t covered by the patient’s medical aid or gap cover. Cancer insurance policies often cover costs such as medication co-payment, diagnostics tests, visits to out-of-network specialists, surgeries, and hospital stays, to name a few. Some cancer insurance policy providers also offer benefits, such as assistance with finances for upfront expenses (pre-diagnosis), funding for secondary medical opinions, genetic testing, reconstructive surgery, complimentary transport to appointment and treatments, qualified at-home care, Au Pair services, physiotherapy and counselling or psychotherapy.
Essentially, these policies are in place to help lessen the financial impact of cancer on families with a family member suffering from the illness and help patients avoid financial toxicity. This happens either through lump-sum payouts or by covering specific medications, treatments and therapies. It all depends on the insurance policy and the payment option agreed to by both the patient and the insurance provider.
Do you think you or a loved one may need cancer insurance? In South Africa, there are approximately 294 new cases of cancer diagnosed daily. Contact us to find out how our policies and benefits can help you or a family member manage and plan for cancer’s financial impact.