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Why cancer treatments are resulting in more bankruptcies

People who are diagnosed with cancer have access to more and better treatments than ever. However, those treatments come at a steep cost. So do medications like Gleevac, which is used to treat leukemia.

This means that while cancer patients should be focusing all of their thoughts and energy on battling the disease, many are fighting with insurance companies to get reimbursement and figuring out how they’re going to pay for chemotherapy, radiation and more experimental treatments that have shown promise. Sadly, too many people delay getting treatment.

People are being diagnosed with cancer earlier and living with it longer. However, the financial toll can devastate even middle-class families who don’t have considerable savings. Aside from the medical bills, patients and their families often have to take time off of work — sometimes without pay. Some have to leave their jobs entirely.

One oncologist who has studied the financial impact of cancer on patients and their families surveyed 300 patients at the cancer institute where he works. All of them had insurance. However, almost 40 percent said the financial burden of their illness was greater than they expected. Over a quarter admitted that they weren’t taking their full dosage of prescribed medications. Sixteen percent reported “overwhelming financial distress.”

Medical facilities are increasingly helping cancer patients deal with the financial challenges of battling the disease. A number of nonprofit organizations offer assistance as well. However, cancer patients still have more than double the rate of bankruptcy of those without cancer.

While bankruptcy is no one’s first choice, it can sometimes be the best option for getting out from under overwhelming medical debt and the damage it’s wrought on the family finances as a whole. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can answer your questions and help you determine if it’s the best solution for you.

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