Cancer Survivors May Face an Additional Challenge: High Debt

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You’re in your 20s or 30s and have already been treated for cancer — shouldn’t that be the biggest obstacle you’ll have to face for a while? Unfortunately, a study published in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, found that many of these cancer survivors are grappling with financial woes too: More than 14 percent borrowed over $10,000 during their cancer journey, and a small percentage say they or their family had to file for bankruptcy as a direct result of their illness or therapy.

The study – which involved 872 people between the ages of 18 and 39 who were at least a year out from their last treatment – also examined employment-related concerns. A full 58 percent said their cancer or treatment interfered with the physical demands of their job, with 54 percent saying it impeded their ability to perform job-related mental tasks.

According to the researchers, who were from the Colorado School of Public Health, cancer type and treatment regimen had a significant impact on financial- and work-related risks. Overall, cancer patients who underwent chemotherapy were more than three times more likely to have borrowed over $10,000 and experience impaired mental function at work than those who didn’t have chemo. The personal money spent on chemo could be because it isn’t always fully covered by insurance and patients can be too sick to work for an extended period of time.

The study group, treated at cancer centers throughout the United States, included 241 breast cancer survivors, 126 thyroid cancer survivors, 126 leukemia/lymphoma survivors, and 342 survivors of other types of cancer. Patients who were treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer had a 2.66 times higher risk of mental impairment at work and a 2.62 times higher risk of needing to take unpaid time off work than breast cancer patients who didn’t receive chemo, the highest risks in the study.