The Emotional, Physical, and Financial Battle with Cancer: How Treatment Costs Add to Already Crippling Stress

For anybody fighting cancer, it’s not unusual to experience deep physical and emotional strain. The shock of diagnosis, worry about the future, and challenges of treatment can leave most patients feeling unable to cope.

But as if dealing with difficult treatment weren’t enough, cancer patients also have the associated costs to contend with. Recent research has shown that many Americans affected by cancer – whether patients, survivors, or their families – simply cannot find the money to receive or pay off the treatment they need.

This pressure is especially true for those suffering from the rare lung cancer mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, a disease caused exclusively by asbestos, is so aggressive that treatment often involves additional procedures, some of which cost up to $250,000. Not surprisingly, very few patients have the means to foot this sort of bill.

How Costs Add New Burdens to Mesothelioma Patients

In 2014, a Washington National Institute study found that 62 percent of cancer survivors incurred debt attempting to pay for their treatment. Many survivors’ spirits from beating cancer were dampened by financial struggles long after recovery – and no wonder, as the estimated costs for only a year of treatment are staggering.

Mesothelioma patients alone are likely to be as much as $4,000 out of pocket even before diagnosis. Initial doctor visit, x-ray, and follow-up costs quickly add up, and are later augmented by complicated or repeated procedures such as biopsies, fluid drains, oncologist consultations, prescriptions, and chemotherapy.

This year, too, research revealed that the problem is far from letting up. While the Affordable Care Act (whose future is uncertain in any event) has facilitated easier access to health insurance, even just deductibles and co-pays are set at unachievable rates.

Catastrophic Costs ‘Remain a Challenge’

For this study, researchers surveyed social workers and nurses trained to consult with cancer patients on coverage and treatment options (known as financial navigators) at 11 hospitals across the country. Findings revealed that many financial navigators were unable to accurately predict the cost of a procedure in enough time for patients to pull resources together. Other advisors pointed out that medical management needs, though just as critical as other cancer treatments, are not covered by insurance.

This shows, suggest researchers, that patients are put under enormous stress when trying to secure timely and effective treatment.

“The current health law has greatly improved access to meaningful health coverage for cancer patients, survivors, and all those with chronic diseases,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Yet costs remain a challenge for those facing cancer. Our country and our lawmakers should come together to find bipartisan solutions that begin to address patient costs without sacrificing the quality of coverage.”

One Solution: Accountability

Indeed, lawmakers serve as critical gatekeepers to justice for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma patients and survivors are in a unique position, in that their disease was not caused by risk factors in their control. Mesothelioma is and always has been directly and intentionally caused by companies that kept asbestos dangers hidden to protect their interests.

Holding these companies accountable for their wrongdoings can provide many comforting emotional benefits for their victims. But the benefits can also be monetary, and that’s where legal compensation comes into the picture. By order of courts that successfully stood up against the profit-driven nature of asbestos-related corporations, these companies have put aside an estimated $30 Billion in trusts for mesothelioma cases.

This gives patients the opportunity to seek legal counsel to help meet their overwhelming medical costs. While no amount of money can reverse the terrible pain mesothelioma patients and their families must go through, this option at least offers a sliver of hope for a debt-free future. More importantly, it helps provide the treatment most likely to offer a future at all.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

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Last modified: September 25, 2020