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'We even lost our house': Cancer patients facing crippling costs of as much as €1,000 a month

A new report from the Irish Cancer Society suggests cancer patients are also facing huge losses in earnings.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Blue Planet Earth

CANCER PATIENTS ARE facing huge costs and a crippling loss to their earnings, with some spending over €1,000 a month according to a new report from the Irish Cancer Society.

Its second Real Cost of Cancer Report found that cancer patients are spending an average of €756 a month through medical expenses that can’t be claimed back, costs associated with appointments, increased day-to-day living costs and other expenses they didn’t have before being diagnosed with cancer. 

The expenses around hospital visits – petrol, parking and eating at the hospital – came to an average of €291 a month. The average cost of medicines was around €261 a month.

Similarly, cancer patients are losing an average of €18,000 a year in income, or €1,500 a month, as a result of their diagnosis.

Three in four people had their employment circumstances changed in some way post diagnosis. 

The report contains testimonies from some of the research participants, giving an insight into their own experience.

One said: “It has changed our lives completely, but we now value each day that comes. OK, financially we would have been better off but what is money when it comes to one’s health? We were fortunate as we had no mortgage and just general out going expenses to meet.”

Another wrote: “The financial strain led to serious resentment from my husband and the breakup of our marriage in the end.”

One respondent highlighted how they lost their home as a result of the financial strain caused by a cancer diagnosis.

The person said: “It’s caused severe stress on us daily. Going from two excellent long-term full-time careers to social welfare. We even lost our house to the bank and I have missed appointments as we had no petrol to go.”

And another said:

Very difficult making it on social welfare and the stigma of going to their office twice after surgery and then at treatment time. My employer told me to draw my pension fund. It was a stressful time as my child was only 3 at time of diagnosis.

To help support cancer patients, the Irish Cancer Society has called for a number of measures to be implemented.

This includes a reduction in the Drug Payment Scheme threshold to €100 per month for a family and €72 a month for single people. Simon Harris told the Dáil in July that such a measure would cost the Exchequer over €30 million. 

It also calls for an abolition of the €80 inpatient charge, reduced car parking charges for cancer patients and an immediate end to the HSE practice of referring unpaid inpatient charges to debt collectors.

Irish Cancer Society CEO Averil Power said: “At a time where they should be focusing on their health and getting through their cancer treatment, they are worrying about bills stacking up.

Most patients and often their partners are already suffering huge losses in income. This can result in people having to choose between paying hospital charges over putting the heating on. It could also mean choosing to buy medication over putting food on the table. Nobody should have to make that choice.

The Irish Cancer Society’s research is based on the participation of 514 people between May and June 2019. The report is available here

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Sean Murray

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