Helping with the financial toxicity of cancer


“I have been blessed to have great health care through my employer! I don’t know what I would have done without my great insurance! I would probably not be here,” says Caesar. “In almost nine years of treatment, my medical bills have been around $6 million, while I have paid $9,000 out of pocket! I am so thankful.” 

Not everyone is as fortunate as Caesar. 

According to an AARP article, The high cost of cancer treatment, a greater number of individuals are dealing with the “financial toxicity” of a cancer diagnosis, meaning they put their financial security at risk during their battle against cancer. 

The Cancer Experience Registry reports that 30 percent of patients have depleted savings, 73 percent did not talk about costs of treatment with the health care team, and 1 in 10 postpone filling prescriptions to reduce the cost of their care. 

As the incidence of cancer continues to rise in our community, Gilda’s Club Kansas City aims to provide education to increase the awareness of available financial resources while lowering the stress related to financial issues.

Educational workshops such as Basic Budgeting, Organize Your Affairs, Social Security Disability, and Estate Planning are offered free of charge at the clubhouse and at our community partner locations. 

Clara Anderson Sainte, program director for Gilda’s Club Kansas City, says that she and program specialists have provided referrals to local and national resources, provided information regarding self advocacy related to financial needs, and have given guidance on navigating the medical system.

“Many times we work with patients and their families about qualifying for one resource in order to allow their available funds to pay for other needs,” she says. 

Some of the situations for which program staff have provided assistance include:

  • Transportation. Transportation resources are limited in our area and are typically limited to medical appointments. Some individuals do not have the funds to pay for transportation for other needs, such as social and emotional support. 
  • Uncovered costs. Difficulty funding/inability to fund out-of-pocket health care costs/costs not covered by insurance (nutritional supplements, co-pays, wigs, medical supplies, complimentary treatments used to assist with side effect management, pain, emotional concerns/stress, etc).
  • Funding gaps. Gaps in funds for those in post treatment and still needing financial assistance/may not qualify for certain programs in post treatment.
  • Qualifiers. Resources/programs may have income qualifications; some individuals make too much to qualify but don’t make enough to pay for their out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Income changes. The inability to work for a time or work as many hours due to a cancer diagnosis or providing care to family member living with cancer. 

For those with a cancer diagnosis who are not insured at all, getting quality care presents even more of a hurdle. A great deal of time and energy is spent on finding a safety net hospital with cancer care or health system that will provide care allowing the patient to self-pay or will assist in identifying other financial resources such as funding from a pharmaceutical company.

With around one-third of the Gilda’s Club Kansas City members underinsured or uninsured, we are keenly interested in access to care for these populations. Our organization participates in the Cancer Care Access Committee started by El Centro in 2016. The goal of the committee is to identify and secure medical treatment for the uninsured of our community with a cancer diagnosis. 

While the work continues for everyone to have access to quality medical treatment for cancer, our greater metro area is fortunate to have several organizations committed to providing education, social and emotional support, and resource referral at no cost. 

About Gilda’s Club Kansas City
Gilda’s Club Kansas City is the only program solely focused on meeting the psychosocial care needs of people impacted by cancer. Their program includes educational workshops and materials; healthy lifestyle classes such as nutrition, exercise, and arts; support groups and short-term individualized counseling; and, resource and referral programs including Open to Options ® (treatment decision model) and CancerSupportSource ® (distress screening tool). Two things make the programs unique: each is facilitated by a licensed mental health professional; and, they are offered free of charge. Learn more at