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The unexpected extra costs of cancer care

We all hope it won’t happen to us, but in all likelihood the “big C” will at the very least affect someone close to us. And alongside the emotional and physical stresses that come with treatment and fighting the disease, there’s an unexpected financial hit, which could cause further problems for cancer patients and their families.

Though many will be treated on the NHS, there are extras that need to be self funded –including paying for travel to and from hospitals, extra heating bills to keep warm, increased bills from being at home more often and paying for support for help at home.

Many of those affected by cancer also have to cut down working hours – if they can work at all. This brings on extra pressure as it is likely your income will also be hit as a result.

Charity Macmillan Cancer Support calculates the average cost of extras combined with potential loss of earnings to be £570 a month.

Don’t ignore financial pressures

With everything else going on, it’s easy to think you can worry about money later on. But Macmillan also found a third of people with cancer didn’t consider that their finances would be affected, while one in 10 underestimated the impact it would have.

The danger of ignoring extra costs and changes to income can mean people are pushed towards borrowing more than they can afford, with all sorts of consequences possible further down the line.

Could you afford not to work?

For many, you may only think about the potential financial impacts when cancer happens to you – but that could be too late if you don’t have any savings or if you’re the main breadwinner and can’t work.

One option to consider is critical illness cover. It’s an insurance policy which would pay out a tax-free lump sum if specific medical conditions or injuries occur. Importantly, these policies don’t cover all types and stages of cancer, so you’ll need to read the policy documents carefully. They also generally don’t cover any illness or injury you had before you took the policy out.

However, it’s worth considering if you don’t know how you’d be able to cover the bills if the worst was to happen.

Getting help and support

If you do get cancer, there is financial support available. 

This includes statutory sick pay - a minimum you are entitled to from your work, giving you £88.45 a week for up to 28 weeks - though some employers have a more generous scheme. You’d need to be assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you were still unable to work after 28 weeks.

Macmillan also have benefits advisors to help easy money worries, including information on benefits, tax credits, grants and loans.

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