Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Confronting the Financial Battle Within the Health Fight

Learn more about how to reduce financial toxicity for breast cancer patients

October 18, 2023
breast cancer, financial toxicity

The diagnosis of breast cancer is not just a health crisis but often a financial one. October, being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is an apt time to shine a light on the financial toxicity many women face as they battle this prevalent disease.

Understanding Financial Toxicity in Breast Cancer

When we talk about the challenges of breast cancer, financial toxicity is an aspect that needs more awareness. It represents the financial strain from medical bills that many patients and their families endure, on top of the physical strain of the diagnosis.  

In the U.S., financial constraints are tragically linked to a higher mortality risk for women undergoing breast cancer treatment. It's alarming that younger, racial or ethnic minority, and unmarried women face the most substantial financial burdens. This underscores an urgent need to ensure that no one delays or abandons essential care due to unaffordability.

Many women, when diagnosed with breast cancer, are more anxious about the ensuing financial implications than the health impacts of the disease. A 2023 study in JAMA Network Open highlighted nearly 80% of breast cancer patients experience financial toxicity. This financial burden doesn't just affect medical bills but often forces women to make challenging career decisions, affecting their livelihood.

Moreover, the continuous rise in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) has exacerbated this issue. With over half of workers under these plans, many women find themselves facing delays in crucial breast cancer treatments and diagnosis.  

Empowering Patients Through Assistance

Fortunately, many hospitals and health systems are striving to alleviate financial toxicity. They offer patient assistance programs covering immediate healthcare expenses and social support initiatives addressing essential needs like housing, food, and transport. By enrolling patients in government programs such as Medicaid or offering charity care, these institutions are doing their part. Additionally, patient advocates play a pivotal role in guiding patients through their recovery journey, ensuring they access philanthropic aid.  

Yet, even with such interventions, without the proper infrastructure, many women might miss out on the help they need.

Making Philanthropic Aid Accessible  

With over $30B available annually from more than thousands of patient assistance programs, the challenge often lies in connecting patients to these resources. Through automated patient assistance technology, providers have real-time visibility into available philanthropic aid tailored to individual patient needs. By digitizing the process, from application to enrollment, they aim to ensure more women can afford their treatments and remain on the path to recovery.  

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let's commit to understanding, addressing, and alleviating the financial hardships associated with this prevalent, life-altering diagnosis. Everyone deserves the chance to focus solely on healing, without the looming shadow of financial distress.