Financial Stress of Mesothelioma Hurts Quality of Life

Piggy bank with band aid

Many people struggle with financial problems, but the stress of hard times can be especially difficult for families suddenly affected by mesothelioma.

A cancer diagnosis is never easy, but adding financial strain to the equation can intensify an already delicate situation. The additional stress can even affect the patient’s health. Recent research shows cancer patients with limited savings are more likely to experience worse symptoms and a lower quality of life.

Anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck — as many American families do — understands the devastating implications of not having the savings to cover the costs of mesothelioma treatment.

For some people, a mesothelioma diagnosis limits the ability to work and provide for their family. With no income, it’s challenging to afford health insurance bills and hospital copays, let alone the cost of housing, groceries and other essentials.

Emergency savings funds should be a necessity. But for many, they are a luxury. I grew up in a middle-class family, and we had no savings to rely on when my father was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Negative Effects of Financial Strain on Cancer Patients

In February 2016, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published a study exploring how financial strain affects symptoms and quality of life for people diagnosed with lung or colon cancer.

After interviewing more than 10,000 patients diagnosed with those cancers, researchers found 40 percent of lung cancer patients and 33 percent of colon cancer patients in the study reported having limited financial reserves.

Further investigation revealed the cancer patients who didn’t have enough savings to fall back on during treatment experienced greater symptom burden and poorer quality of life.

Some of the problems observed in patients with limited savings include:

  • Impaired activity levels
  • More pain
  • Deeper depression
  • Worse overall health

The study’s findings reveal a disheartening link between financial problems and the health of cancer patients. In addition to the physical and emotional toll of financial worries, money problems can cause cancer patients to delay treatment or skip pill doses to conserve their supply of expensive medications.

People should never have to choose between taking care of their health and providing for their loved ones. When a medical and financial crisis threatens a family’s livelihood, it is important for patients and caregivers to use every resource available for financial assistance.

A Cancer Patient’s Resource for Financial Assistance Programs

Locating the right financial resources is crucial for any cancer patient stressed about money. Fortunately, a growing number of cancer treatment centers offer specialized services to people who are struggling with their finances.

Cancer centers typically employ social workers who offer a wide range of support services, including guiding cancer patients to essential resources.

While there are certain eligibility requirements for financial assistance, there are a number of programs available to get patients and their families the help they need:

  • The Mesothelioma Center: Patient Advocates at The Mesothelioma Center provide patients and loved ones with vital financial resources. They can connect you with financial help for travel, housing and treatment.
  • Government programs: Contact your local health department to find out if you qualify for assistance with living expenses such as food, transportation and energy costs.
  • Hospital debt relief and forgiveness: Treatment centers generally have financial assistance programs to help patients pay for services. Some offer discounts if patients pay for services up front rather than waiting to get a bill in the mail.
  • Pharmaceutical programs: Many pharmaceutical companies offer programs to assist patients with paying for medicine. They may cover the entire cost of a prescription or provide the medicine at a discounted rate. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist to learn if there are programs for the medications you take.
  • Support organizations: Private and nonprofit cancer support organizations provide valuable resources to families struggling with the cost of cancer treatment and daily living expenses. CancerCare, for example, has an excellent guide to help cancer patients take control of their finances.

From my family’s experience with the financial struggles associated with mesothelioma, I can tell you the battle isn’t easy. The same worries that burdened my family are on the minds of so many others.

However, there are countless resources available that can help relieve some of the financial burden. With that out of the way, you can focus on what is truly important: Your health and your family.

  1. Lathan, C. et al. (2016, February 29). Association of Financial Strain with Symptom Burden and Quality of Life for Patients with Lung or Colorectal Cancer. Retrieved from http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/early/2016/02/24/JCO.2015.63.2232.full
  2. CancerCare. (2015). A Helping Hand: The Resource Guide for People with Cancer. Retrieved from https://media.cancercare.org/publications/original/178-helping_hand.pdf?1442411382

Melanie is currently pursuing a Master's degree at the University of the Cumberlands. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1992. She is dedicated to writing about her unique experience with the rare disease.

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