Grants To Patients Offset Financial Burden, Help Patients Make Ends Meet
Lower income breast cancer patients often struggle to afford life’s necessities such as housing, transportation and utilities due to direct and incidental costs related to their treatment, according to a new analysis by Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization. These top needs were identified by Susan G. Komen’s Patient Care Center, which provided nearly $9.1 million in grants to more than 16,000 breast cancer patients from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023, as part of Komen’s direct-to-patient Financial Assistance Program.
Up to 73% of adult cancer survivors experience financial toxicity, the damage inflicted on personal finances by medical costs. Additionally, almost half of breast cancer patients report that even mild financial toxicity affects treatment choices, quality of life, medication adherence, bankruptcy rates and even mortality.
Komen’s Financial Assistance Program gives qualifying individuals $500 or $750, depending on the stage of disease, to pay for everyday expenses that become burdensome due to the cost of their care. Recipients identified housing (35%), transportation to and from treatment (29%) and utilities (25%) as their top financial stressors.
“Nearly 300,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone, and this report confirms a significant problem that needs addressing: many patients are struggling to stay financially afloat,” said Susan G. Komen President and CEO Paula Schneider. “The financial toll of this disease is devastating, and it shouldn’t be the reason we’re losing precious lives. Susan G. Komen is here to help offset treatment expenses because we know no one plans for breast cancer, much less has money set aside to pay their unbudgeted bills.”
From April 2022 to March 2023, 58% of the barriers to care faced by people served by Komen’s Patient Care Center were economic.
Real-Life Struggles and Personal Stories
Tiffy Creasy was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in September 2022 and was unable to work at her job while going through chemotherapy and radiation. Creasy had private insurance that paid for her treatment once the deductible was met, but a $500 grant from Komen paid for the gas to get Creasy to her appointments.
“Komen gave me the ability to breathe for just a moment and not worry about the cloud of finances, but rather my own well-being—mentally, emotionally and physically,” Creasy said.
Helen Jean Scott is on Medicaid, and it covered the cost of her breast cancer treatment, which included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. But she unexpectedly became a primary caretaker of her three young grandchildren and could not return to work after recovering from her treatment. “I was behind on my electric bill, and it was getting cold outside. I was worried about the electricity being turned off and I needed money to help me because there was nowhere else to turn,” Scott said.
A $500 grant from Komen got Scott caught up on her bills.
Komen’s Financial Grants Are Part of The Solution but Cannot Be the Only Solution
Individuals can apply for financial assistance once every 12 months and must live in the United States or a U.S. territory and earn an annual household income at or below 300% of the federal poverty level – $90,000 for a family of four in 2023.
The payments help alleviate some of the immediate financial pressures patients face but ultimately public and private sector interventions must do more to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for treatment, imaging, medical supplies and other items that help patients heal from their treatment. These expenses can cost patients thousands of unbudgeted dollars.
“Financial toxicity is solvable, but Komen cannot solve it alone,” Schneider said. “The support from our donors is more crucial than ever to help patients make ends meet, but we also desperately need new interventions at every level to ease the financial burden of breast cancer treatment and care.”