With ongoing cost of living concerns, the vast majority of people in Canada feel a sudden cancer diagnosis would impact their household finances, a new survey conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society in partnership with the Angus Reid Group suggests.
The survey shows over two-thirds of people in Canada noted that additional monthly out-of-pocket expenses related to cancer care would make it difficult for them to manage financial necessities, like making mortgage or rent payments and paying off existing debts.
Also, thirty per cent said they would have to go into debt to pay for the out-of-pocket costs of a cancer diagnosis.
“World Cancer Day is a global day for action against cancer and this year’s theme is Closing the Care Gap .. we wanted to focus on a very specific piece of that care gap, which is out-of-pocket costs,” said Stephen Piazza, director of advocacy at Canadian Cancer Society.
“People facing cancer face a number of out-of-pocket costs through their cancer journey .. we wanted to raise awareness and certainly call for action, to do more, to address the out-of-pocket costs that people facing cancer face every day,” he added.
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Max Silverman was 20 years old and applying to medical school when he was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“It was just a very turbulent time, and I sort of had to put everything on hold and ended up actually in the ICU .. I just remember it as such a crazy time with so much going on,” said Silverman.
He insisted on continuing several of his classes but with six months of chemotherapy, he would inevitably need to spend an extra year catching up.
A fourth year of education and all those associated costs, certainly added up, he said.
“There was a whole slew of anti-nausea medications that I would have to take .. a lot of these medications were not covered under OHIP,” said Silverman.
To mark World Cancer Day, the Canadian Cancer Society is asking people to join them in calling on government to help reduce these costs by doing things like implementing a national pharmacare program, a refundable caregiver tax credit and job-protected leave.
“Ontario only provides up to three days of job protected leave and in our survey findings, one third of employed Canadians fear losing their job if they choose to undergo a cancer treatment. We really need job protected leave to be increased, as well, so people have a job to go back to so they can help afford all of these costs,” said Piazza.
Silverman is now coming up on four years remission from cancer and plans to apply the experience he had as a patient to a future career as a health-care provider.
“I’m now finishing my medical school journey, I have this interesting, joint perspective as a future health care provider and a cancer survivor and I’m actually just now completing my residency interviews for internal medicine so I’m really looking forward to entering the health care world on the provider side,” he said.
“I think that I would advise individuals to be supportive of those around them being impacted by cancer and importantly, advocate to those in government that can make policies that can make it easier for these people, and people like myself.”
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