Blood cancer patients facing impossible choices amid soaring costs

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The Leukaemia Foundation has released new research that shows the significant financial strain caused by a blood cancer diagnosis.

According to the research, nearly half (43 per cent) of those diagnosed experienced out-of-pocket treatment costs totalling hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.

The weighted average out-of-pocket costs to an individual with blood cancer ranges from $5,000-$11,000, it found, compared with other cancer patients who incur around $2,500 in out-of-pocket costs.

It found that 42 per cent of patients had to take over three months off work during treatment, 30 per cent had to leave their job and 50 per cent have not yet been able to return to work.

Most patients used savings to fund out-of-pocket costs. Some had to sell assets including their house or car to pay for treatment, while others used charity food boxes and turned to charities like the Leukaemia Foundation to help manage the burden.

“This year 19,403 Australians will be diagnosed with blood cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and this figure is set to nearly double by 2035. Many Australians are already doing it tough due to the rising cost of living and this is just another burden that’s being placed on them at a time where they need to focus on their health and getting better,” said Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti.

The organisation has released the research to coincide with the launch of the 25th anniversary of World’s Greatest Shave.

The event has raised funds over the past quarter of a century to ensure that the 53 Australians diagnosed with blood cancer each day have the right information as well as emotional, practical and financial support. It also supports research.

Mr Tanti continued, “Today’s research reveals the true cost of a blood cancer diagnosis. Financial hardship can be among the most significant challenges for a person or family impacted by the disease and on top of the emotional, physical and social challenges, many individuals and their loved ones are faced with extremely difficult financial decisions just to survive their blood cancer.”

“With lengthy treatment regimes, persistent symptoms and the threat of relapse, the effects of a blood cancer diagnosis can last a lifetime, affecting survivors of all ages, their loved ones and the wider community."