The side effects of cancer treatments are well-known: Some people may experience nausea, changes in weight and loss of hair from chemotherapy. Others may face loss of appetite, pain and fatigue from their pill regimens. Side effects can often be severe and can make a patient’s road to recovery seem blocked with obstacles and challenges.
One roadblock that the cancer community is starting to consider as equally damaging as the physical side effects of treatment are the financial ones. The term “financial toxicity” is gaining increasing prominence among researchers and patients alike, as it describes the phenomenon of economic hardship caused by a cancer diagnosis. As more and more patients face financial struggles, however, programs are being developed to provide money for cancer patients — so they can focus on getting physically and financially health.
Like with physical side effects, some patients may be more vulnerable to financial struggles than others, including those who are:
- Sole breadwinner for a family
- Lacking a savings
The medical impact
While financial toxicity can weigh on the wallet, what can it do to a patient’s health?
- Increase stress, which has been linked to poorer treatment outcomes
- Cause the patient to alter a medication regimen or skip treatments in an attempt to save money, which can hinder recovery
- Create an overall poorer quality of life, which can put a patient at increased risk for mortality
Combatting financial toxicity
What can be done to fend off financial toxicity?
To help patients close the financial gap caused by their diagnosis, services have been developed that provide money for cancer patients. Life Credit Company, for instance, offers living benefit loans that allow patients to receive up to 50% of their life insurance policy’s death benefit — helping them to lift the financial burden that could be complicating their recovery. Many hospitals and cancer-service agencies also can connect patients with programs that offer money for cancer patients to use on everything from treatments to transportation to daily expenses like groceries and clothing.
Cancer comes with many side effects — with some planning and collaboration, financial toxicity doesn’t have to be among them.