The moment you are diagnosed with breast cancer a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions runs through you. There is so much to process. Thoughts like: “How could this happen to me?” “I don’t have time for this.” “What is the next step?” What we often don’t think about are the financial hardships that can go along with this diagnosis of cancer. These hardships are so common that they were given a name, financial toxicity. This term encompasses all of the mental, physical, emotional and social stress that is caused by the cost of cancer treatment. This financial toxicity has a huge impact on the patient and family leading to a further decrease in quality of life. Cancer is expensive, but there are things you can do to help protect yourself from financial toxicity.
The most important thing you can do to prevent financial toxicity is arm yourself with knowledge. The more you know about your insurance and resources, the better prepared you will be. You can check your insurance company’s website or call them for more information about your plan. You need to know what your insurance will pay for and how much you are responsible. You need to know what your out of pocket maximum is and know when you have reached it. Choosing the right insurance can have a big impact on your out of pocket cost, sometimes thousands of dollars. The tricky part is understanding how to choose the insurance that is best for you, and there are resources that can help with that decision. A great place to start are the financial counselors at your treatment center. Another great resource for information is The American Cancer Society. You can call them at 1-800-227-2345 anytime. There is also great information and instructional videos on Triage Cancer’s website about insurance basics and picking health insurance.
Once you know your treatment plan and have started the bills will start to arrive. Don’t just toss them in a pile and ignore them, stay organized. You can match the bill with the explanation of benefits (EOB) from your insurance company. If you aren’t getting the EOB, call your insurance company and make a request. The insurance company will send you this form and it will list all the charges the healthcare provider filed with the insurance company. It will also list how these charges were paid, whether it was by the insurance company or if they are your responsibility. Once you are organized you can reach out to the treatment facility and make a plan.
There are also other forms of financial support available. There are foundations that can assist with treatment costs or household costs. Touro Foundation and Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans are both local foundations that help patients while being treated. Another great place to receive assistance is through drug companies. Some offer their drugs at free or reduced costs. Ask the nurse or patient navigator at your treatment facility if these foundations or drug companies can help.
The best thing you can do to prevent financial toxicity is ask for help. There are many resources available to you and many people at your treatment facility who want to help.
To learn more about our Supportive Cancer Center, please call (504) 897-8678 or click here.
Danielle McCullogh, RN, BSN is a nurse navigator on Touro’s Supportive Cancer Center team. She is an experienced and compassionate addition to the team and works towards ensuring that all of her patients have a support team and meaningful experience.