Half of Patients With Breast Cancer Say Transportation Costs Are a Challenge to Treatment

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed by The Pink Fund said the cost of transportation was a barrier to receiving treatment and 60% missed an appointment or were late to one because of transportation issues.
BY Kristie L. Kahl
PUBLISHED October 28, 2019
Nearly half of patients (48%) with breast cancer surveyed by The Pink Fund said the cost of transportation was a barrier to receiving treatment, with more than 60% missing an appointment or being late to one because of transportation issues.

Moreover, the survey found that 67% of respondents are in need of transportation assistance to and/or from treatment and that 80% would need a ride service to treatment three times or more each month.

The Pink Fund, which provides short-term financial support to help meet basic needs, decrease stress levels and allow patients with breast cancer to focus on healing while improving survivorship outcomes, surveyed nearly 800 patients, including 93% who are in active treatment for their disease.

CURE recently spoke with Molly MacDonald, founder of The Pink Fund, about her own experience with financial toxicity associated with her breast cancer diagnosis, and also why it is important to address barriers to transportation.

CURE: Can you give us background on your own experience?
MacDonald: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2005, at a time of job transition.  I had been through a financially devastating divorce, I had no savings, very sporadic child support, no alimony and five children. So (my breast cancer) diagnosis kind of derailed my career opportunity while I underwent treatment for early-stage disease. My treatment was a couple of surgeries and six weeks of daily radiation. So, I always say that while the disease was unlikely to take my life, it could take my livelihood.

Without my income, I had the addition of a Cobra premium of $1,300 a month. We were standing on the edge of a financial cliff about to go over in an abyss. Within three months, my house went into foreclosure and I was begging the creditor of my vehicle not to repo the car and I ended up in line at the food bank.

The epiphany that I experienced was meeting other working women in treatment who were on much more aggressive treatment regimens, longer treatment protocols, possibly losing their jobs permanently because they were going to run out of FMLA. And there was just not a single organization that could make a non-medical bill payment. When I couldn't get help, I thought that maybe I'm supposed to give help. So, I had this idea that if we could start an organization that would make up to 90 days of non-medical non-negotiable bill payments directly to patients’ creditors for housing, transportation, utilities and insurance, that that would provide them with a financial bridge.

Can you tell us about the survey and its findings?
Well, the most surprising was the fact that it was such a high number that were missing treatment because of (transportation). And we do want to learn more about it and what that means.

The other surprising thing was that we thought that the transportation challenges would be most often in rural areas and it wasn't. It was in urban areas. So, we felt like patients who had to travel so many miles to treatment, that that would have been more of a challenge for them because it's gas costs or that they drive older vehicles.

What is your advice for others facing a cancer diagnosis?
Speak to financial navigator at the hospital where you are getting treatment and examine what your health insurance looks like and find out if it can be optimized in any way.
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