Archive for October, 2012

How Can We Help Women Survive the Financial Tsunami that Comes with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis?

October 29, 2012

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime  In the 6-12 months it takes to complete treatment, women undergo multiple diagnostic tests, biopsies, surgeries, chemotherapy, physiotherapy and radiation.  Treatment is time consuming and often times debilitating, making it difficult for women to work.  The combination of increased medical expenses, routine living expenses and cessation of income, often generates enough debt to financially destroy families  

Current and retirement savings are the first to be wiped out.  The next line of defense in the battle for financial survival is credit card debt.  Once credit cards have been maxed out, foreclosure and homelessness are not far behind.  Hardest hit by the financial tsunami are those in female-headed households.  At a time when they are fighting for their lives, these women are also being crushed by a mountain of debt and harassed by debt collectors.

Given the power of breast cancer lobby groups and the amount of fundraising taking place in the name of breast cancer, one cannot help but wonder why there aren’t more resources allocated to providing meaningful financial support for women in treatment.  Although foundations exist which offer small grants, their support is a drop in the bucket given the magnitude of the problem  Social Security disability benefits are not an option for most of these women.  Unless their cancer is advanced and there is significant metastases, most women do not qualify for SSI until they have been unable to work for a minimum of 12 months.

In an effort to address this problem, the breast cancer lobby should focus more attention on obtaining financial support for women currently in treatment.  This financial support should come both from fundraising, and by urging members of Congress to support legislation that allows women in treatment to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.