Tackling cancer-related financial toxicity to give patients a fair shot at beating cancer

Mar 13, 2018
Tackling cancer-related financial toxicity to give patients a fair shot at beating cancer

Meet Haley

“My mom quit her job to care for me when I was diagnosed with cancer. My dad was the only one working to support our family of four. Life became very stressful, very quickly,” said 16-year-old Haley, a cancer fighter (pictured with her family above), at one of our recent events.

We met Haley when she was one year into her treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of cancerous tumor. Haley’s diagnosis required her to receive inpatient treatment up to seven days a week every three weeks. This made it impossible for her parents, Olga and Chad, to both maintain their full-time jobs. Olga quickly transitioned into the role of primary caregiver and used all her paid family and medical leave while at her daughter’s bedside during the day. Chad took the night shift, sleeping at the hospital so his wife could return home to care for their young son with autism.

The loss of Olga’s income made it difficult to keep up with everyday bills and out-of-pocket costs, like gas to and from treatment. The family soon found themselves wondering how they were going to keep a roof over their heads and maintain access to Haley’s treatment.

A national crisis

Haley’s story is not unique. One in three families are unable to afford their basic needs (housing, food) because their child is in cancer treatment.1 Adult patients are also at risk – 73% will experience some form of cancer-related financial toxicity (CRFT).2

So what exactly is CRFT? Cancer can significantly cut many household incomes as patients and caregivers, like Olga and Chad, put careers on hold because of treatment needs.2-4 Families quickly become overwhelmed by lost income and increased out-of-pocket costs associated with treatment. As a result, they face higher mortality rates, the inability to adhere to their treatment plans and bankruptcy.5-7 This is what the oncology community has deemed CRFT.8

The consequences of financial devastation

Families find themselves making dangerous decisions as they fall further and further behind on their daily expenses – do they skip a chemo appointment to pay their mortgage? In fact, 38% postpone or do not fill drug prescriptions, 34% cut doses entirely and 31% cut oral medications in half.6

That’s not all. Adult cancer patients are 2.65 times more likely to go bankrupt than those without cancer.7 Those who file for bankruptcy have a 79% greater risk of early mortality.5

As an engaged community of advocates, we know these numbers are unacceptable. Every patient deserves a fair shot at beating cancer. It’s time to make that a reality.

Family Reach published a comprehensive white paper to raise awareness and spark conversation with key stakeholders both inside and outside the healthcare industry. Developed in conjunction with our Medical Advisory Board and Xcenda, Cancer-Related Financial Toxicity and it’s Pervasive Effects on Patients and Families: Solving a National Health and Economic Crisis Hiding in Plain Sight – is the first consolidated report providing an in-depth look at CRFT.

Find out more here.


  1. Bona K, London WB, Guo D, Frank DA, Wolfe J. Trajectory of Material Hardship and Income Poverty in Families of Chil­dren Undergoing Chemotherapy: A Prospective Cohort Study. Pediatric blood & cancer. 2016;63(1):105-111.
  2. Gordon LG, Merollini KMD, Lowe A, Chan RJ. A Systematic Review of Financial Toxicity Among Cancer Survivors: We Can’t Pay the Co-Pay. Patient. 2016:1-15.
  3. Pelletier W, Bona K. Assessment of Financial Burden as a Standard of Care in Pediatric Oncology. Pediatric blood & cancer. 2015;62 Suppl 5:S619-631.
  4. Flynn KE, Atallah E. Quality of Life and Long-Term Therapy in Patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Current Hematologic Malignancy Reports. 2016;11(2):80-85.
  5. Ramsey SD, Bansal A, Fedorenko CR, et al. Financial Insolvency as a Risk Factor for Early Mortality Among Patients With Cancer. Journal of clinical oncology: official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 2016;34(9):980-986.
  6. Cancer Care Patient Access and Engagement Report. New York: CancerCare. 2016.
  7. Ramsey S, Blough D, Kirchhoff A, et al. Washington State cancer patients found to be at greater risk for bankruptcy than people without a cancer diagnosis. Health affairs (Project Hope). 2013;32(6):1143-1152.
  8. Family Reach (2017). Cancer-Related Financial Toxicity and its Pervasive Effects on Patients and Families; Solving a National Health and Economic Crisis Hiding in Plain Sight. Available at: https://familyreach.org/white-paper/ (accessed February 26)
Tackling cancer-related financial toxicity to give patients a fair shot at beating cancer


Carla has had a tremendous impact on Family Reach’s financial stability, impact and growth since joining the organization in 2008. Through the implementation of a strategic national expansion plan, she increased Family Reach’s hospital partner network from five east coast hospitals to more than 300 top-tier cancer centers and hospitals across the United States. She has built a diverse network of strategic relationships and corporate partners, allowing Family Reach to now serve more than 40,000 people affected by cancer each year.

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