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Emergency assistance options for cancer patients

A recent study about the affordability of medications for cancer survivors underscores the importance of the emergency assistance funds L5 Foundation provides to cancer treatment facilities in Knoxville.

According to the study, many cancer patients change how they take their medications, including skipping doses or waiting to fill prescriptions because they can’t afford them. The study was conducted by the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

Among cancer survivors ages 18-64, about 32% of those diagnosed within the past two years and about 28% of those diagnosed at least two years ago reported changing their prescription drug use for financial reasons. This compared with only about 21% of those without a history of cancer.

“Specifically, non-elderly cancer survivors were more likely to skip medication, delay filling a prescription, ask their doctor for lower-cost medication, and use alternative therapies for financial reasons compared with non-elderly individuals without a cancer history,” says the American Cancer Society’s Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, a senior author of the paper.

There are several factors at play in the decisions younger cancer survivors make regarding medications, including large financial commitments like mortgages, college tuition and dependent family members; missed work days and other barriers to working that can reduce income; or job loss, which can mean losing employment-based insurance coverage.

Jemal advises patients who have difficulty affording medications to talk to their doctors about the availability of lower cost alternatives.

The study was published in the February issue of Cancer, the peer-reviewed research journal of the American Cancer Society.

Emergency assistance funds provided by L5 Foundation for patients at Knoxville’s cancer treatment centers are meant to help patients who may have to choose between paying for medication or meeting other financial needs, like paying light bills. Emergency assistance funds are available at the Cancer Institute at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Thompson Cancer Survival Center and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Funds are distributed in consultation with social workers at each facility.