The high cost of cancer is usually not the first topic of conversation that comes up when someone receives a cancer diagnosis; however, research has increasingly focused on the subject. A recent article refers to the financial toxicity of cancer care, suggesting the untenable situation might be due, in part, to such factors as overall poorer well being, impaired health-related quality of life, and subpar quality of care.1
A LINK TO BANKRUPTCY
A landmark 2013 study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, Washington, found that on average, cancer patients filed for bankruptcy approximately 2.5 times more often than people without cancer.2 Taking their initial research further, the same group found that bankruptcy takes a terrible toll: Patients with cancer who file for bankruptcy are almost 80% more likely to die than those who do not file for bankruptcy, and even patients on the verge of bankruptcy are at risk.
However, mortality rates associated with bankruptcy were higher for some cancers than others. For example, among patients with colorectal cancer, those who went into bankruptcy were 2.5 times more apt to die than those who did not; whereas the association was slightly lower for patients with prostate cancer, who were twice as likely to die as their counterparts who did not go into bankruptcy.3
THE VULNERABILITY OF YOUTH
Young adults with cancer are particularly vulnerable; they file for bankruptcy 2 to 5 times more frequently than older patients with cancer. Notably, bankruptcy filings increase as the time following diagnosis increases.2
The Samfund takes this situation very seriously. Founded by young adult cancer survivors, the Samfund is a national 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts. It provides support for young adult cancer survivors as they recover from the financial impact of their cancer treatment.
The organization does this through free online support and education along with direct financial assistance. The Samfund helps young cancer survivors do what may have seemed impossible: Proceed towards their personal, professional, and academic goals.4
Data collected by the Samfund from 2007 to 2013 illustrates the situations young cancer survivors find themselves in when they receive their diagnoses and begin treatment.5 Instead of starting out on their own, as their same-age peers are doing, these young adults are struck down by a deadly disease and may face the negative economic consequences of their disease almost immediately.5
Young adults with new cancer diagnoses may be just starting out in the work force. Perhaps they recently graduated, or they may even still be in school. Often, they are paying back student loans, as well as seeing future student loans looming—if their health enables them to continue their education. They may be thinking of getting married, or they have already started a family before becoming ill.