“Your test results came back, it seems you have a tumor and it’s malignant. I’m sorry to inform you, but you have cancer.” My aunt had told me this was the worst thing she has ever heard from her doctor. The second thing was from her insurance “I’m sorry, but you are not covered for this…” I’m sure she is not the only cancer victim who felt this way.
The moment you are diagnosed with cancer, you instantly have a million thoughts and questions running through your head. What do I have to do? How far along is the cancer? How long do I have to live? Will my insurance cover for treatment? Can I afford all the extra expenses? Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How? These are some of the worries that most cancer victims feel as they embark on this new survival journey to battle for their life. We all know the despair that cancer brings upon its victim and family members, but did you know cancer is also costly? Yes, cancer can be costly and it will affect us all physically, mentally, and even financially.
The majority of us do not worry about the cost of treatment until it falls upon us. We assume that as long as we have insurance coverage, we are good to go. We pay high deductibles and we even try to get the most expensive plan possible for the benefits it encompasses. We assume any out of pocket cost will amount to the same as paying a copay for a doctor’s visit. When I was doing my community service volunteering at a relay for life event to help raise funds for cancer research and programs for cancer patients and survivors, one of the things I noticed is that majority of them aren’t aware of the full cost of cancer. Most don’t even realize that their insurance (even if they have the best coverage) will not cover for everything and they will have out of pocket expenses. Some are not aware of the extensive treatment plan and care that they have to go through besides the typical chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and possible surgeries and the cost of each. And if you think about it, if you are ill and are going through all these possible tests and treatments, the last thing you want to deal with is all the stress of financial burden.
That got me thinking, why are there so many organizations that promotes events such as walk for breast cancer, relay for life, etc. to help raise funds for research for cure but there aren’t that many that utilizes the funds they raise to help those in need in the present moment. With the rising cost of prescription drugs, expensive medical treatments, and hospital care, I ponder why are there such limited programs to assist in the cost of treatment for patients when that is one of the things they desperately need?
Aside of that, to all the cancer victims, family members and loved ones of them, I want this blog to be an eye-opener as well as to forewarn you to be prepared. I implore that you are well informed of all that entails when dealing with cancer, especially managing yourself financially. Insurance will not cover everything! And what will happen when you have a million other things to juggle with while you’re battling for your life. Do not wait until the last minute until you are struggling financially to discuss cancer costs with your health care team. You need to be aware from day one, and here is how…
- Find resources such as websites, pamphlets, assistance programs/centers, and your healthcare team to get as much information on your treatment plan and medical expenses BEFORE you start it.
- Do research on your insurance plan to get a full detail of what it will cover, and what it will not. Know the terms of your policy as well as the network that it prefers. Check what will be your out of pocket cost. Don’t forget to also ask about pharmacy/prescription drug coverage as well.
- Ask if there are other alternative treatment plans that may be as effective and less costly.
- Do some research on Medical leave and pay from employment if you need to take time away from work for treatment
- Have a family member/friend help you keep track of the costs/bills
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!!
We are entitled to choose how we shall receive our care and deserve the best care possible without the financial stress that comes with it. So until we get the financially assistance we desperately need, let’s start with helping ourselves, by being prepared.
DO SOME RESEARCH:
This article discuss about the rising cost of cancer care and that the leading amount of personal bankruptcy in the U.S is due to the high cost of medical bills. It gives out good information regarding patient opting out of certain effective treatments due to its high cost and also how doctors are now making recommendations on treatment based on patients out of pocket costs. Another thing we tend to overlook is the patient to physician discussion about these costs and that the majority of patients want to have these discussions/resources through their physician.
Henrikson, Nora B., et al. “Patient and oncologist discussions about cancer care costs.” Supportive Care in Cancer 22.4 (2014): 961+. Academic OneFile. Web. 31 May 2016.
Another informative article that review about the rising cost of chemotherapy treatment and cost of cancer prescription drugs. Cancer treatment drugs are fluctuating depending on the manufacturer and its high cost does not necessarily mean it may work better. This also gives you an overview of the percentages of where the costs come from; prescription drugs, hospital stays and outpatient visits, physician visits, etc.
Glover, Lacie. “Oncologist Worry about Rising Cost of Cancer Treatments”. Website. July 1, 2015.
The ACS (American Cancer Society) organization is one of the trusted organizations that provide many resources to cancer victims and people who are impacted by it. This certain page in their website gives an overview of what are the costs of cancer treatment and what to expect along with programs and resources that can provide assistance.
How to Get Involved:
If you are not a cancer victim yourself but you want to provide support or help in any way that you can, no worries, a helping hand is always needed. There are many ways to get involved in your community either through hands on volunteer work or even through online assistance. Here are some links that can offer support, provide volunteering opportunities and get you connected to your community.
1) Get matched up to volunteer for your local cancer organizations or any local volunteering opportunities in your community at Hands on Portland.
2) Participate or assist with organizing a walk/run event to continue to get funding for cancer research/programs. Some examples may be Relay for life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer
3) Volunteer to provide transportation for patients to go to their treatment visits.
Other support sites: