The financial hardship that often accompanies a breast cancer diagnosis comes as a shock to many. Treatments may involve additional drug costs, therapies and/or medical devices not fully covered by provincial health plans or private health care insurance. The average length of treatment for breast cancer takes place over 38 weeks but can often last as long as a year. Employment Insurance provides benefits for only 15 weeks at a very reduced portion of salary and not everyone qualifies.
There are many different kinds of breast cancer, each with a different treatment plan. The length of time from the diagnosis to the completion of treatment varies depending on the type of breast cancer and at what stage it is diagnosed. Breast cancer diagnosed at an early stage may involve surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy) and possibly radiation (35 treatments over six to seven weeks). A quarter of women diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer will receive regular injections of Herceptin for approximately 11 months after active treatment to reduce the chance of recurrence. Treatments for later stage or aggressive forms of breast cancer may involve chemotherapy before surgery, followed by more chemotherapy and radiation after surgery and many months of traveling to and from the hospital for treatment.
Some women who have had a mastectomy, after many months of treatment, may undergo additional surgery for breast reconstruction.
Can you afford to get breast cancer? For many Canadians, the answer is no.
The simple truth is that being a breast cancer patient comes with many added expenses – costs that, too often, aren’t covered by government programs or employer-paid health insurance.
The financial hardship that often accompanies a breast cancer diagnosis comes as a shock to many.
Treatments may involve additional drug costs, therapies and/or medical devices not fully covered by provincial health plans or private health care insurance.
Months of lost wages, coupled with the additional costs associated with treatment, leaves many patients struggling to cover the basic necessities.
Many patients who live in rural communities have the extra burden and costs of traveling long distances to the hospital for treatment.
Daniela and Kathy's Stories
Mother and sole provider to a wonderful teenaged daughter, Daniela discovered a lump in her right breast. She was 42. After screening, biopsies and a partial mastectomy, it was determined that Daniela had a highly aggressive and uncommon form of breast cancer that accounts for only 10 – 15% of all cases. Treatment and recovery took a full year. Due to lost wages, the cost of travel, parking and a special diet for complications due to treatment, Daniela found that even receiving short term disability benefits through her job could not help her properly provide for herself and her daughter. She found herself using the local food bank a few times. “As a result of these realities, it cost me over $25,000 to have cancer and 2 years after treatment, I am still paying off the debt. If it weren’t for the Breast Cancer Support Fund's help with bills, mortgage payments and grocery costs, it is likely that I would have lost my house. I admire CBCSF for calling attention to this important issue and I am forever grateful for the help they provided me and my daughter at a time when no one should have to worry about money.
Wife, and mother of 2 grown boys. Kathy describes her breast cancer story beginning at five years of age when she remembers vividly that her maternal grandmother was diagnosed; and later so would 4 of her great aunts. Eventually an aunt and three cousins were diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2013, when Kathy felt a lump, her first thoughts turned to breast cancer, given her family history. When a lumpectomy didn't provide clear margins, Kathy opted to have a mastectomy and is planning on reconstructive surgery. "I have found it emotionally, physically and financially draining. There were many "extra" costs I never even dreamed of. Although, my family has never been well-off, I could not afford to get breast cancer. The Support Fund helped me. It made life a bit easier. It took off some of the financial pressure and helped me pay for the wound dressings, the prosthetic breasts and helped with the cost of gas for travelling to the cancer clinic and the parking expense. I can't thank them enough."