Don’t ignore the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis

At the recent Value in Cancer Care Summit, a former bankruptcy judge, Karen Overstreet, addressed the financial toxicity that often comes with a cancer diagnosis. Cancer is overwhelming and confusing and there is often not a lot of transparency about the financial impact. Patients are reluctant to discuss financial concerns with their care team – either out of embarrassment or fear that treatment will be withheld – and care teams often lack in house resources to help patients with financial navigation. Those who do have resources like financial counselors and social workers often bring them in when the situation is already a crisis.

After witnessing the financial devastation cancer can cause in her bankruptcy courtroom, Judge Overstreet founded Consumer Education and Training Services (CENTS) to provide educational and legal resources to help patients prevent or overcome financial challenges.

Her organization surveyed patients to learn more about what they need when it comes to financial challenges. Of those they surveyed, the vast majority want help, including:

  • Information about financial literacy and counseling starting at diagnosis
  • Someone to talk to periodically throughout treatment
  • Money management information
  • Help finding copay assistance
  • Guidance in choosing and navigating a healthcare plan

Judge Overstreet acknowledged that financial toxicity is a complicated and unfair issue that requires help at the legislative level to begin to correct it, but in the meantime organizations like hers are doing what they can to provide assistance and many cancer care providers are working to address financial concerns as they help patients throughout treatment.

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