Being diagnosed with cancer can be the most terrifying moment in someone’s life. A million questions instantly fill your mind; is it curable? Will I survive? What kinds of treatments will I need to endure? Rarely your first thought is your finances, and why should it be, when your life is on the line? Unfortunately for many cancer patients this life-threatening diagnosis can turn their world and their finances upside down.
One long-term study conducted by Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows that patients diagnosed with cancer were four times more likely to declare bankruptcy than the general population. The study examined bankruptcy rates of 232,000 cancer patients within five years of their diagnosis in the state of Washington from 1995 to 2009.
Cancer is, unfortunately, expensive. On top of damaging your body and endangering your life, it can drain your savings and leave you in financial turmoil. According to the American Cancer Society the 2010 cost of cancer in the U.S. was almost $263.8 billion. Another study conducted by The National Institutes of Health estimates that $103 billion of that is directly related to medical costs, leaving the other billions of dollars associated with loss of income.
Furthermore, researchers have found that different types of cancer have a direct affect on the likeliness of filing for bankruptcy. Among the biggest culprits were:
One explanation is that certain kinds of cancer affect a specific demographic of patients, for instance, lung cancer affects smokers, who tend to be in a lower socioeconomic group. Thyroid cancer is generally diagnosed in younger women, who don’t have a large savings or access to health care.
Other possible explanations for leukemia and colorectal cancer could be the extreme costs of medical treatments, citing high costs of bone marrow transplants and a sometimes staggering $300,000 to treat colorectal cancer in its advanced stages. While most of these connections are theories of medical economists, some cancers are still a mystery. Uterine cancer, for instance, has yet to be explained.
One thing was certain for bankruptcy risk and cancer; patients over the age of 65 (and usually on Medicare) were less likely to go bankrupt than younger people, who had no assistance and sometimes no health insurance whatsoever.
Unfortunately the most disturbing finding is that the longer a cancer patient survives, the more likely the are to file bankruptcy, due to years of treatments and lost income. One doctor found that if lung cancer patients were fortunate enough to live past the 5 year mark, they had the highest bankruptcy rates at 8%–keeping in mind that the general population bankruptcy rate is only 0.28%.
For more information about bankruptcy, visit our El Paso bankruptcy lawyer blog at Jeff Davis Law.