My cancer center doesn’t have an expert dedicated to addressing the financial needs of our oncology patients. We’re getting more financial questions from patients and I’m not sure of the best resources to refer them to. Recently, someone even asked me about student loan deferment while undergoing treatment. Patients are often looking for explanations along with the next steps they should take. What are some trusted, key resources that I can refer patients to? — Name withheld on request
Finances can be complicated, especially given that each person’s situation is unique; however, there are several places where patients can obtain more information. Here are a few key resources for cancer and finances:
- Triage Cancer provides comprehensive information, such as a “Checklist to Minimize Financial Toxicity” and “CancerFinances: A Toolkit for Navigating Finances After Cancer.” This page also provides links to resources from other organizations as well as to research and data about financial toxicity.
- OncoLink is website that provides educational materials, including a variety of topics related to insurance, legal, employment, and financial concerns for oncology patients.
- CancerCare has a searchable database to assist patients with finding local and national financial resources, along with some limited financial assistance.
- Patients can access free professional support via CancerCare’s Hopeline (1-800‑813‑HOPE ). Oncology social workers are available to assist patients in locating resources.
- The Cancer Support Community’s Cancer Support Helpline (1-888-793-9355) offers a live web chat, licensed counselors, and financial navigators.
- Some diagnosis-specific organizations also have financial resources available, for example, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Living Beyond Breast Cancer.
- Information and the required form for a Cancer Treatment Deferment Request is available from the Federal Student Aid website. Given that this is not your area of expertise, I’d suggest telling your patients to call their loan servicer directly with questions.
For health care professionals who want to learn more, available resources include the Association of Community Cancer Center’s (ACCC) Financial Advocacy Bootcamp and Triage Cancer’s Insurance and Finance Intensive.
In recent years, more research has been published about the financial toxicity of a cancer diagnosis. Familiarize yourself with available data and then consider speaking with your oncology leadership team about the need for someone to be available within your team to address these concerns.
There are more resources than can be included in this response; the ones mentioned will at least get your patient headed in the right direction for finding the assistance he or she is seeking.
— Eucharia Borden, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C