FAQ: Financial Toxicity

  • It is a term used to describe the financial burden and distress experienced from being diagnosed and treated for cancer.
  • Many doctors are starting to pay closer attention to the financial challenges associated with cancer care and delivery just as much as they monitor the toxicity of drugs during cancer diagnoses and treatment.


  • Wrong – there is much more to diagnoses and treatment.
  • Even the best insurance plan does not cover housing, transportation, fertility preservation, special diets, and full-time caregivers. Patients at all ages still find treatments denied and services not fully covered even after their doctor says it is medically necessary.



  • Right now, one-third of all cancer patients in the United States exhaust their savings after a cancer diagnosis. Another third report that they must borrow from friends and family in order to afford treatments or services associated with their cancer care.
  • Add the challenges we already know adolescents and young adults face (one in four do not have insurance), it is not surprising that many find themselves moving back in with parents or filing for bankruptcy.


  • Cancer patients in the United States are 3 times more likely to go bankrupt than the general population.
  • Adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer report less than $100K in general net worth compared to the general population.
  • Nearly one-third of adolescents and young adults diagnosed between 15 and 39 do not go back to school or work full time. As you can see this is a vicious cycle.


  • Unfortunately, most federal programs are focused on low-income, elderly, and/or disabled cancer patients.
  • Providers don’t naturally think to connect their patients with these resources. Even if they do, adolescents and young adults may be “too young” to access these services leaving them with the heavy burden of deciding between life-saving treatments and paying their everyday bills like utilities and rent.


  • There are five strategies that University of Washington researchers who participated in a bankruptcy study propose:
    • Reduce or eliminate what patients must pay out of their own pockets for the most effective cancer treatments
    • Discourage costly cancer treatments that do not extend life very much and make the cost more transparent so doctors and patients can make explicit tradeoffs — between a cheaper but equally effective regimen, or between an expensive treatment that offers limited benefit and a cheaper one that may forgo the possibility of a few weeks or months of additional life.
    • Eliminate tests and treatments that don’t make a substantive difference, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and bone scans for early-stage prostate and breast cancers.
    • Make financial health of patients a routine part of cancer care planning so patients have timely access to sources of assistance – such as manufacturers’ drug discount and free-drug programs. This will help cut down on financial toxicity.
    • Provide financial counseling as part of cancer care. Take into consideration not only the cost of medical treatments but the patient’s ability to continue working, pay for transportation to care centers, and deal with complicated medical bills.



Sample Messages (Tweets/Facebook):

It’s not news. Cancer care is expensive but cost should never be a barrier to survive & thrive after a cancer diagnosis #ayacsm #ayamoneyClick To TweetYou’re never “too young” for cancer. Why are we “too young” to receive financial relief? #ayacsm #ayamoneyClick To Tweet

Nearly one-third of adolescents and young adults diagnosed between 15 and 39 do not go back to school or work full time #ayacsm #ayamoneyClick To Tweet

Check out Alliance partner @thesamfund for information about paying bills during cancer treatment #ayacsm #ayamoneyClick To Tweet

Are you an AYA w/ cancer? Tell us how treatment & care costs impacted your ability to survive & thrive @heycriticalmass #ayacsm #ayamoneyClick To Tweet

Sharable Graphics

Share the graphics below with your social networks along with a link to our “FAQ: Affordable Care Act (ACA)” action.