By: Charlestien Harris
As most people know, October is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. A diagnosis of breast cancer can be devastating to any woman, but is most unexpected and unusually challenging to young women under the age of 40, especially those with families.
Many of us don’t realize the financial toll a positive diagnosis can take on the patient, as well as the family. From appointments to treatment costs to missing work, the financial stresses of breast cancer can be difficult for any family, and often overshadow the most important part of the fight – our health.
There are, however, financial resources available to women who have been diagnosed with the disease, and I thought I would bring this information to the attention of those that are struggling financially.
How to Find Financial Assistance
Most hospitals have resources available to patients and their families. Ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker for more information. Many hospitals and treatment centers also have financial counselors; they can help you with the details of your insurance paperwork and give you an estimated total treatment cost.
Financial counselors can also help you work out a payment plan. They are most familiar with the financial system and processes that their facility uses. If you are unable to pay, some places may be willing to reduce or waive some costs if you ask. Hospital discharge planners, patient service offices, nurse navigators, and patient navigators may also have information on resources and advice about financial matters. No matter your income, you may qualify for financial aid from federal, state, or local programs. A financial counselor at your hospital can help you learn about these programs.
Many organizations offer financial assistance and help with travel, lodging, medical items, and prescription drugs. Below are a few of those resources.
- The Susan G. Komen Foundation has numerous resources available to women that have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Learn more at www.komen.org/support-resources/financial-assistance/financial-assistance-options/.
- The Pink Fund provides 90-day non-medical cost-of-living expenses on behalf of breast cancer patients in active treatment*, so they can focus on healing, raising their families, and returning to the workplace. Active treatment is defined as the period after a positive diagnosis of breast cancer has been made (with a diagnostic biopsy), and during which therapies are being administered, including surgical procedures to remove the cancer (e.g. single or bi-lateral mastectomy, lumpectomy, axillary dissection, or sentinel node biopsy), chemotherapy or radiation. You can visit their website at www.pinkfund.org/get-help/ for more information.
- The Sisters Network Breast Cancer Assistance Program aims to assist breast cancer survivors facing financial challenges while undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy treatment. This organization was founded to assist African American women in dealing with the diagnosis of breast cancer. You can visit their website at www.sistersnetworkinc.org/programs.html.
- The Breast Cancer Assistance Fund. Their mission is to help women who are dealing with the stress and anxiety of a breast cancer diagnosis and are in need of financial assistance or emotional support. You can find additional information at www.breastcanceraf.org/request-assistance/.
- Genevieve’s Helping Hands Charity is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to supporting young mothers in treatment for breast cancer. They provide peer, caregiver, and nutritional support, and offer assistance with locating financial aid. More information and the grant application can be found by visiting www.genshelpinghands.org/genevieve-memorial-recovery-grant.html.
- CancerCare provides free, professional support services for people affected by breast cancer, as well as breast cancer information and additional resources. They offer limited financial assistance for cancer-related costs and co-pays, and their professional oncology social workers can help you find additional resources. You can find more information at www.cancercare.org/financial_assistance .
This may not be all of the many resources available to breast cancer patients, but I hope that this information is a good start for you or someone in your life who needs it.
At Southern Bancorp our motto is: “We are wealth builders for everyone.” As such, we are committed to making sure that the communities we serve are provided with the resources and information needed to be successful – whether that’s everyday financial assistance or support through a life-changing diagnosis. So in addition to the programs listed above, we are also always here to help however we can – be it a flexible personal loan, specialized savings account, or just a supportive shoulder to lean on.
For more information on this or other financial topics, please feel free to email me at Charlestien.Harris@southernpartners.org, or call me at 662-624-5776.
Until next week – stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region. You’ll be seeing her columns weekly on the DeSoto County News website and our social media channels.