A large number of patients experience a severe income drop while, at the same time, running up extra bills on the likes of medical and child care and hospital parking.
The average extra spend per month among cancer patients surveyed, even those with a medical card or private health insurance, was €862 while those who cannot work, work less, or lose income as a result of having cancer face an income drop averaging €1,400 a month, or €16,750 per year.
The figures are contained in The Real Cost of Cancer, a report of a study commissioned by the Irish Cancer Society, which was carried out by Millward Brown, and is published today.
The society, recently forced to cut its grants to cancer patients facing hardship due to increased demand, said the survey shows everyone diagnosed with cancer is affected financially in some way.
“Our report shows that many cancer patients are facing financial stress, often real hardship, by having to deal with extra costs and a massive drop in income at a time when they are going through the severe physical, emotional and psychological impact of a very serious illness,” said Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy and communications.
“While three in five patients surveyed had a medical card at the time of diagnosis and more than half had private health insurance, more than 20% of those who applied for a medical card after their diagnosis were not successful. But even those with a medical card or private health insurance had to pay out for the many things not covered such as childcare, hospital parking, and home heating, and, in many cases, additional over-the-counter medicines.”
Many cancer patients have previously told the Irish Cancer Society about the high cost of parking during treatment but the Real Cost of Cancer report reveals that the financial burden caused by parking is almost unbearable for some families. One patient reported that daily visits by his wife while he was being treated in a Dublin hospital for 16 weeks cost the household over €1,000.
“It is clear that many cancer patients are facing financial hardship as well as the physical and psychological impact of cancer. Requests for help from the Irish Cancer Society’s financial support scheme rose by nearly 30% last year and already this year have risen again by a further 15%,” Ms O’Meara said.
“This year, so far, the society has spent €1.2m supporting patients, with most payments going towards home heating, childcare, and travelling to treatment, including parking.
“This scheme is funded entirely from public donations and is becoming unsustainable for the society, which also funds cancer research, information, free night nursing, as well as a whole range of activities to support cancer patients.
“That is why we have had to cap the amount we give to patients, with the exception of the families of children with cancer.”
The society is repeating its call for all cancer patients to have a medical card.