*Home heating and petrol costs top list of concerns for patients as festive period approaches
*Average spend of €275 a month on heating, electricity and petrol for patients, on top of €200 for medical expenses
Patients undergoing cancer treatment are being hit particularly hard by the cost of living crisis, new research from the Irish Cancer Society shows, with many cutting back on heating as Christmas approaches.
The concerning findings come from a poll of cancer patients, carers and members of the public carried out by Core Research on behalf of the Society, showing that over half of patients are fearful of keeping up with festive season costs amid rising expenses at a time when patients’ income can take a huge hit.
On average cancer patients are more worried about the cost of heating their home compared to others, with three in four saying they have reduced their spending on heating compared to 60% among the general public. Some 70% of patients have also cut back on petrol or diesel costs.
These were among the main costs experienced by the 569 households affected by cancer surveyed. More than 40% report they are spending an average of €275 per month in total across the categories of heating, petrol/diesel and electricity.
Home heating is important for households coping with a cancer diagnosis, with patients potentially spending more time at home between treatments while they are off work. Patients are also particularly reliant on fuel as they travel to hospital appointments, sometimes over long distances.
Considering patients also face average out-of-pocket medical expenses of €200 per month, the combined result is a huge hit to their personal finances.
Worryingly, one in five cancer patients say they chose not to attend their GP or hospital for a healthcare concern due to fears over the cost involved.
Geraldine Lavin (50) from Lucan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021. She was forced to rely on savings to cover day-to-day expenses for her family of four while she was in treatment, with extra expenses such as hospital car parking adding to the pressure.
“I am self-employed and my ability to work was impacted while in treatment. I had to pay for five hours’ parking at a time when I went into the hospital, which doesn’t sound like a lot but it is when other household expenses are piling up and you’re not working.
“We had to dip into savings so that buffer is not there for when you need it in future. Even after treatment new expenses that you never considered can keep popping up,” said Geraldine.
Commenting on the findings, Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said: “We are seeing a huge amount of anxiety among people affected by cancer as they worry about heating their homes and paying for Christmas, and we have received 30% more enquiries on financial issues this year compared to 2021.
“We are hearing that cancer patients have reduced what they spend on food so that they can pay for transport to treatment. Other families have had to stop their children’s sports activities because the money just isn’t there to keep them going. Another patient told us he wasn’t sure he had enough fuel to get to treatment and cut back on the number of meals he ate so he could save money.
“This is the reality of having cancer in Ireland today. Despite the welcome decision by Government to abolish hospital charges, families across the country are having to face grave choices due to the cost of cancer. No cancer patient should ever have to reduce the number of meals they have just so they can afford to get to treatment.
“More supports to protect patients from the costs of having cancer are needed. These include providing a medical card to every cancer patient, removing hospital car parking charges, abolishing prescription charges and making benefits more openly available to those who find themselves in such an incredibly difficult position.
“Anyone who would like information and advice on financial issues associated with cancer, including on welfare entitlements that they may be eligible for, is encouraged to contact our Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.”
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