Don’t Let Cancer Drive You Into Debt

5 ways to control treatment costs

Don't Let Cancer Drive You Into Debt

A cancer diagnosis brings a lot of worries with it. One of the biggest — and least discussed — is money.

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Even if you have good insurance, all those co-pays add up — to say nothing of the time you might miss from work, the clothes you may need to buy as your body changes, and the extra help with housework or childcare that you may need to pay for.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help weather the financial storm. You’ll likely start by taking a close look at your own budget, but there are also agencies and programs that can help with costs or advocate for you if you’re struggling to pay your bills.

Start with a budget

Managing your finances during cancer treatment isn’t just about getting assistance. Creating a budget may sound like a drag, but it’s a good first step. It can actually help you feel more in control.

Be realistic about your anticipated income and expenses each month. Cut back where you can to free up money for your care. It may help to keep in mind that in many cases, the sacrifices are temporary. But don’t forget to leave money to treat yourself now and then if you can; self-care is important, too.

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Seek financial assistance

Once you know where you stand with your budget, it’s time to take steps to apply for financial assistance for cancer-related costs. Here are just a few organizations that may offer help:

  1. CancerCare® Co-Payment Assistance Foundation: This nonprofit helps with co-pays for chemotherapy and cancer medications. Although it does not cover all types of cancer, the organization will pay co-pays for all FDA-approved medications that insurance covers.
  2. Partnership for Prescription Assistance: This website doesn’t represent any one organization, but it helps you search for prescription assistance programs you might qualify for. Enter your medications and some demographic information, and the site connects you with applications for programs that might help.
  3. NeedyMeds: A doctor and medical social worker started this nonprofit in 1997 to create a centralized database about patient-assistance programs. NeedyMeds can also connect you with local health care resources and even has a prescription discount card.
  4. Patient Advocate Foundation: This nonprofit offers several types of assistance. In addition to its Co-Pay Relief Program, PAF offers case managers that can help access care and help you navigate life challenges that cancer creates.
  5. Corporate Angel Network: Need to travel for cancer treatment? The Corporate Angel Network partners with businesses to let cancer patients fly for free on corporate jets in order to reach recognized cancer treatment centers. If you need a type of treatment that’s not available in your area, this organization may help get you there.

In addition to national organizations, there are often local resources that can help as well.

Don’t hesitate to talk to an oncology social worker at the facility that’s treating you. This person is likely the best source for information about assistance in your area. Local organizations can sometimes help with everything from wigs to utility bills.

Get help early

For many people, a serious illness like cancer can significantly damage financial stability. If you’re behind on your mortgage or have bill collectors calling about credit cards or medical debt, don’t try to ignore it.

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Reach out to your creditors to try to adjust your payments, or consider contacting a credit counseling agency affiliated with the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling. A certified credit counselor can help you explore your options and will advocate on your behalf with your creditors.

Cancer treatment is never inexpensive, but if you know where to look for help, you can minimize the damage to your financial health.

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Cancer Answer Nurses

Jamie Schwachter, BSN, MSN, NP-C and Josette Snyder, RN, MSN, AOCN are Advanced Practice Nurses for Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute’s Cancer Answer Line.
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