Canadian Cancer Society highlights financial impact of cancer

Canadians face $290/month in costs, prompting one organization to seek relief measures

Canadian Cancer Society highlights financial impact of cancer

On World Cancer Day, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) has highlighted the significant financial strain that a cancer diagnosis can place on Canadians.  

Through a national survey conducted with the Angus Reid Group, the CCS reveals that 90 percent of Canadians believe their household finances would be severely impacted by a sudden cancer diagnosis.  

A majority, over two-thirds, stated that the additional out-of-pocket expenses for cancer care would burden their ability to manage essential financial obligations, such as household expenses, mortgage or rent payments, and debt repayment.  

Alarmingly, 30 percent anticipated going into debt, while another 10 percent would need to seek financial help from friends or family to afford these costs. Furthermore, 63 percent of respondents reported that the financial stress from cancer-related expenses would significantly affect their mental health and stress levels.   

Dr. Stuart Edmonds, executive vice president of Mission, Research, and Advocacy at CCS, emphasizes the emotional, physical, and psychosocial toll of cancer, stating that adding financial pressures during such a time is unconscionable.  

Despite Canada's universal healthcare system, individuals diagnosed with cancer still face substantial out-of-pocket expenses, averaging $290 per month in 2023, for costs ranging from medications to travel for treatment. This financial burden is especially challenging as patients may be unable to work during their treatment and recovery period, which can last from 6 to 10 months for common types of cancer. 

  The CCS also points out the disparities in cancer risk, care, and costs, noting that not everyone is equally affected. Underserved populations and those living in rural areas face even greater challenges.  

Jennifer Mitchell's story illustrates the personal impact of these costs. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Mitchell had to travel significant distances for treatment, facing over $14,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for travel, housing, and medical costs. 

To address these issues, the CCS recommends several government actions, such as reducing drug costs, implementing a refundable caregiver tax credit, ensuring job-protected leave, and coordinating efforts to minimize the financial burden on patients.  

These steps aim to make cancer care more affordable and accessible for over 1.5 million Canadians living with or beyond cancer. Dr. Edmonds calls for collective action to reduce the cost of cancer care, underscoring the need for societal engagement to drive change and support those affected by cancer.