Working-age cancer survivors face significant debt, bankruptcy

Growth in the cost of cancer care is outpacing growth in the cost of other healthcare services, putting many cancer survivors through financial hardship, according to a recent study in Health Affairs.

The study found especially high financial pressure among younger cancer survivors with lower incomes or public health insurance. Using data from the LIVESTRONG 2012 survey of nearly 5,000 cancer survivors from ages 18 to 64, researchers sought to assess the financial hardship these patients faced due to cancer.

Here are 10 key findings from the study.

  • The majority of respondents (64 percent) said they were worried about paying large bills related to cancer treatment or the treatment's lasting effects.
  • About one-third (34 percent) said they or someone in their family was in debt due to cancer.
  • Of those who said cancer caused debt for them or their family, 94 percent had out-of-pocket medical expenses, 87 percent said they worried about cancer-related bills and 9 percent also filed for bankruptcy.
  • Of those who reported debt due to cancer, 45 percent incurred less than $10,000, 30 percent had between $10,000 and $24,999, 12 percent had $25,000 to $49,999, and 13 percent had $50,000 of debt or more.
  • Just 3 percent of all respondents said they or their family had filed for bankruptcy due to cancer.
  • Nearly half of respondents — 40 percent — reported making other financial sacrifices.
  • Survivors under the age of 54 were significantly more likely to go into debt than those older than 55.
  • Survivors with annual incomes below $81,000 were also more likely to go into debt.
  • Survivors with public insurance or no insurance were more likely to go into debt.
  • Survivors with their last cancer treatment more than two years ago were more likely to file for bankruptcy.


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