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Managing Financial Stress After a Cancer Diagnosis

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Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy, and navigating everything that comes along with it can feel like a full-time job.

From understanding your diagnosis to getting treatment, there’s a lot involved — and the financial aspect is no different. With the high prices to get treated and the complicated nature of the U.S. health care system, the weight of these costs can cause significant stress.

But there are ways to make the financial stress more manageable. Ahead of World Cancer Day on Feb. 4, here are three tips to get started. One important takeaway is knowing you aren’t alone.

3 tips for managing financial stress after a cancer diagnosis

No. 1: Seek a financial support system

It’s important to lean on your support system after a cancer diagnosis.

“People can be incredibly generous and gracious in helping loved ones in times of great need, but they can’t help if they don’t know the need is there,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst.

Help could come via a GoFundMe, a meal train or some other financial offering. It could also be driving someone to a doctor’s appointment if they’re not up to it, picking up their mail, taking out their trash or even coming by to talk and watch Netflix.

“These things, whether big or small, can absolutely change people’s lives,” Schulz says.

National cancer organizations like the American Cancer Society may also provide assistance. Googling phrases like “cancer organizations near me” can help you find local charities or nonprofits. You may also try including your specific cancer type while searching to find organizations that specialize in helping with your diagnosis.

No. 2: Ask about payment plans

The financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis can be difficult to cope with on top of everything else. But that doesn’t mean you have to — or should — accept the medical bills you receive as the last word on the subject.

“Treating cancer can be prohibitively expensive, so it would be wise to ask your medical provider about setting up a payment plan that would be manageable and affordable for you,” Schulz says. “It may not be easy to ask for that sort of help. It requires making yourself even more vulnerable in an already incredibly difficult time, but it’s too important not to at least ask about it.”

Negotiating medical bills, as well as keeping a detailed treatment log and checking itemized bills for errors, can also prove useful. Another thing to consider is a medical loan. This could provide significantly lower rates than something like a credit card, lowering your long-term costs and giving you a predictable payment schedule. But keep in mind that you’ll need good credit to access a loan with a decent interest rate.

No. 3: Look into generic drugs and other cost-saving options

Generic drugs, when available, could help reduce costs. If you have insurance and are getting generic drugs, consider asking your pharmacist about the cash price of your prescription. Many times, the medication could cost less if you don’t use your insurance because the pharmacist doesn’t have to pay the insurance company and other people part of the process.

“There’s no guarantee that the cash price will be lower, but it’s absolutely worth asking — and the pharmacist should be happy to answer,” Schulz says.

Although finding savings options on medications can feel tricky, many options are available. For example, you could ask your doctor for samples of your medications, use NeedyMeds to find savings programs for which you may qualify or see whether the drug manufacturer offers assistance or discounts.

You can also consider services like GoodRx or Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company, which often offer lower drug prices because they deal directly with the manufacturer. Again, there are no guarantees these services will save you money, but they’re worth exploring.


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