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Home>UPDATE: Why breast cancer patients are in 'financial crisis'

UPDATE: Why breast cancer patients are in 'financial crisis'

UPDATE: Why breast cancer patients are in 'financial crisis'

09/20/2017

By Kari Paul, MarketWatch

Many people experience 'financial toxicity' during and after treatment

When Molly MacDonald was diagnosed with breast cancer in Spring 2005, she didn't expect that some of the most harrowing effects of her disease would be financial. But six months into treatment, her house was foreclosed on and she began to rely on food banks as she struggled to support her five children.

"I had gone through a financially devastating divorce, had no savings, and no ability to weather the finances of treatment," said MacDonald, who since founded non-profit The Pink Fund in Michigan to financially assist other breast cancer patients. "I met so many other working women experiencing what we call financial toxicity as a side-effect of cancer."

She's not alone. One-third of women diagnosed with breast cancer said they were more scared of how they would be able to pay for treatment than over the cancer itself, a survey of over 1,000 breast-cancer patients released this week by The Pink Fund found.

Their fears are not entirely unfounded: 37% of breast cancer survivors are still in debt due to treatment, 23% said the disease nearly bankrupted them, 47% of women are using their retirement account to pay for out of pocket expenses and 26% are paying with their credit card. The Pink Fund works to offset these effects by providing 90 days of non-medical cost-of-living expenses to breast cancer patients in active treatment.

Dipping into savings or putting costs on credit contributes to financial instability later in life, according to Jean Sachs, chief executive officer of Living Beyond Breast Cancer (http://www.lbbc.org/), a nonprofit in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. "Nobody is prepared for a diagnosis but people are shocked to find when they are diagnosed how expensive it is -- even if you have insurance," she said.

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