About one-third of cancer patients face money worries paying for the cost of their care, campaigners revealed today.
The Irish Cancer Society said almost half of patients have paid for consultant visits and trips to their GP, with average costs running to more than €700.
Mairead Lyons, the group’s head of services, said the number of people seeking state benefits to meet the cost of care jumped by a fifth last year.
“The findings of the report show that families are struggling to meet basic needs,” she said.
“In the last 10 years the Society has seen a doubling in demand for financial assistance, paying out €3.5m in grants in the last five years alone.
“The results of the report have shown an urgent need to review the supports and provisions available to cancer patients and families.”
The Irish Cancer Society said women, younger patients, people who had been working and those with kids were hit hardest by the medical bills.
Among women with breast cancer, 40% incurred costs for wigs or hairpieces, spending on average €400, it said.
The survey revealed 45% of cancer patients paid fees for a consultation with a hospital clinician and 36% paid to see a GP. It found consultant fees were on average €465 and €250 for GPs.
Other figures showed 29% of patients paid on average €300 for prescription medicine and 39% paid an average 100 euro for over-the-counter drugs.
Eight out of 10 cancer patients had transport bills for hospital appointments - on average €360 for travel and €75 for parking.
It also found of those who took time off after being diagnosed, half received some sick pay – 63% of those working for an employer and 5% of the self-employed.
The research involved interviews with social workers and patients and a postal survey by the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI).
Dr Linda Sharp, epidemiologist at the NCRI, said: “Patients in every socio-demographic group can be vulnerable to experiencing financial difficulties as a result of a cancer diagnosis.
“This vulnerability is a function of both their own financial and employment circumstances and the support available from family and friends.”
Dr Sharp said the survey showed patients with children, people who had been working at the time of diagnosis, including the self-employed, and people living in remote areas who have to travel long distances for treatment are most at risk from financial problems.
Tony O’Brien, chairman of the NCRI, added: “In striving for higher quality and efficiency in our cancer services, we must never lose sight of the cost of cancer to the individual, be these costs physical, psychological or economic.
“As a society our overall response to cancer must seek to respond to all of these needs.”