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Cancer leads to medical debt, leads to bankruptcy

California residents are aware that cancer is not only a serious medical concern, but is also poses a significant risk of financial distress. A recently released study confirms this assumption, and suggests that people who are diagnosed with cancer are more than twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as those who are not. This news may go a long way toward assuring individuals that medical debt often leads to the need to seek bankruptcy protection, and is not in any way an indication of a person's inability to manage their finances.

Researchers focused on the financial strain placed upon individuals who receive a cancer diagnosis, without examining other causes of financial distress. One co-author points out that not only do cancer patients have to deal with their illness and treatment, but they also often have to take on second jobs or suffer credit damage as their medical debt mounts. These factors can further complicate an already stressful period in the lives of the patient and their family members.

The study found that the chances of a cancer patient turning to bankruptcy rise as time passes. In the first year following a diagnosis, approximately 0.52 percent of patients will file. By the time five years have passed, that number jumps to 1.7 percent. This could be due to the fact that it takes time for the bills to come in following a treatment plan, and many patients are focused on their medical care in the months following their diagnosis, and only turn to financial concerns once the immediate treatment needs have passed.

For California cancer patients and their families, the findings within this study could give them hope that there is an avenue toward relief from their medical debt troubles. Fighting cancer is difficult enough without having to manage severe financial strain in the months and years to follow. Personal bankruptcy offers a way to eliminate the majority of outstanding medical debt and can give individuals a fresh financial start as they embark on their cancer-free lives.

Source: US News and World Report, "Cancer Patients May Face Higher Bankruptcy Odds," Barbara Bronson, May 15, 2013

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