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The next fight for many cancer survivors? Beating back financial hardships

Cancer survivors often face financial battle

Cancer survivors often face another harrowing battle – a fight for their financial lives.

Nearly 54% of adults who beat the disease said they experienced cancer-related financial hardships after treatment, according to a new study based on a 2016 survey of nearly 1,000 survivors of different types of cancer. 

The report from the American Cancer society breaks survivors' financial struggles down into three distinct categories: material, psychological and behavioral. 

Material hardships included borrowing money and filing for bankruptcy; psychological hardships included worrying about paying bills; and behavioral issues included delaying or skipping care due to concerns about the cost of treatment. 

Some survivors also said they made other financial sacrifices, such as reducing their spending on vacations or leisure activities, delaying large purchases, changing their living arrangements or digging into their savings.

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Xuesong Han, a senior principal scientist at the American Cancer Society and a co-author of the report, said "everybody agrees" that the rising costs of cancer treatment causes widespread financial hardship. Cancer survivors are also at higher risk for cardiovascular and other diseases and typically require more medical care that can be costly and last for decades, she added. 

From 2011 to 2016, cancer survivors spent an annual average of $1,000 out-of-pocket, compared to $622 for people without a history of cancer, according to a separate study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report also highlights the need for measures that help ease the financial burden on cancer survivors and their families, with the researchers noting that such financial stress carries its own health risks. 

A joint study from Northwestern University and the University of Michigan found that people who lost three-quarters or more of their wealth after they turned 50 were 50% more likely to die within 20 years than those whose finances remained stable. 

As of 2019, there were nearly 17 million Americans with a history of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. In the U.S., the number of cancer survivors is predicted to reach more than 22 million by 2030.

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