Financial toll of breast cancer decried

OTTAWA — Canadian women with breast cancer suffer serious financial consequences on top of their physical struggles, according to a new report on the economic impact of the disease.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Network surveyed more than 400 women with a breast cancer diagnosis and found that 80 per cent said they had experienced a financial blow of some kind due to their cancer.

On average, the patient’s household experienced a 10 per cent drop in annual income, 44 per cent were forced to deplete their savings and 27 per cent reported that they took on debt to cover their treatment costs.

A number of breast cancer patients even lost their jobs while undergoing treatment – 16 per cent – and some who returned to their jobs, did so before they were physically ready because of the financial pressure they were under, the report found.

Employment insurance benefits are not sufficient to help women and their families with the economic burden imposed on them by cancer treatments, the study also noted. The average length of treatment is 38 weeks, but EI only provides financial assistance for 15, the study said.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Network says breast cancer needs to be thought of not only as a health issue, but an economic one as well. It is establishing a task force to focus specifically on labour policies, insurance benefits and how workplaces accommodate breast cancer patients who are undergoing treatment, and their subsequent re-entry into the labour force.

The group is presenting the report’s findings on Parliament Hill on Thursday.

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