What is it like to be a cancer patient in America?

So what is Cancer?

Cancer is a scary word and difficult subject for many people. It disrupts many families and takes hundreds of lives everyday, but what really is cancer?

According to The Mayo Clinic; recognized as the best hospital in the nation for 2014-2015; cancer is  "A disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue". Unlike normal body cells that know when to grow, divide, stop and die, cancer cells continue to rapidly grow and divide. These abnormal cells don't know when to die causing masses or tumors in cancer patients. These masses can kill normal body cells and damage the body's healthy tissue. They can also travel to other parts of the body and continue growing forming new tumors, spreading the cancer. Every cancer patient is different and there are more than 100 different types of cancer. There is no cure for cancer but it can be treated in various ways. The most common treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, all very expensive options.

Cancer cells dividing (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/01/two-thirds-cancer-cases-caused-bad-luck-lifestyle-genes)

Lens #1

What is it like to be a poor cancer patient in America?

Having cancer is bad enough. You constantly have to suffer through pain and basically live at the hospital. Not to mention the dozen of needles you get stuck with and hundreds of treatments you try to save your life. Luckily, America is ahead in the medical field and offer many types of treatments but what good is treatment that you can't afford?

How cancer treatment almost bankrupts families. (www.cbsnews.com)

The National Cancer Institute estimates that approximately 8 million Americans alive today have a history of cancer ranging from cured patients to patients still fighting the disease. Out of these 8 million Americans 564,800 are expected to die of cancer this year. That is more than 1,500 people a day. With one of every four deaths in the US being Cancer related the numbers start to add up. This is why Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US (thomlatimercares.org). Sadly, a lot of these deaths could have possibly been prevented if cancer treatments weren't so expensive.

According to The American Cancer Society  20 percent of people with health insurance can't afford their cancer therapy they need to save their lives. The Food and Drug Administration said that"last year of the 12 cancer medications they approved, 11 cost more than $100,000 annually". That is big bucks for a country were 3.6 million citizens work at or below the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (bls.gov) and only make about $15,080 a year working full time (poverty.ucdavis.edu). For many of these Americans to pay $100,000 for cancer treatments is unfathomable, not to mention other expenses on top of that like food, clothing and shelter. So what is it like to be a cancer paint in America? It's Expensive.

Lens #2

What is it like to be a rich cancer patient in America?

Cancer is never easy, but a little weight is lifted off your shoulders when you don't have to worry about the prices for the treatments and care that will save your life. For many people in America this isn't the what the feel when opening their medical bills. Cancer is an expensive disease. Only a few lucky ones can concentrate on getting better instead of the medical bill.

"Spending to Survive" is how many people would describe their cancer bills. When cancer patients are paying for their treatments and hospital stays they are paying to stay alive. Being able to pay for medical care and treatments is a privilege. Its also a privilege to be able to go to the doctors when you need to.   

Size of Breast Tumors (Breast Cancer Basics and Beyond)

In 2012, 53 million Americans didn't go to the doctor because they couldn't afford it. 50 million didn't fill a prescription and 49 million skipped recommended medical care just because it was too expensive (money.cnn). The scary part is 564,800 out the 1,228,600 Americans that get diagnosed with cancer annually will die (thomlatimercares). That sadly means that about 3% of the Americans that don't go to the doctor because of financial reasons could have cancer and not know about it. That also means about 2% of Americans that don't go to the doctor could die of cancer. These numbers may not seem like a lot, but just remember they represent peoples lives. The picture above shows the size of cancer lumps found by a doctor and found by accident. As you can see the size of the lump found by accident is frighteningly larger than the lump found by the doctor. With knowing these facts, thinking about the number of people that find lumps by accident because they can't afford a doctor is heartbreaking. So what is it like to be a rich cancer patient in America? It is lucky and makes life just a little better easier.


Overall, having cancer sucks. Rich or Poor cancer is a horrible and expense disease that kills too many people. You can't prevent getting cancer, it's completely random, but visiting a doctor from time to time could help save your life. And whether you are a finically stable or having problems you shouldn't let cancer over come you. Give it a good fight!

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Comment Stream

2 years ago

How often does a cancer bill come in ? (every month) and is there a payment plan for the less fortunate? GREAT INFO !😊

2 years ago

This did a very good job of breaking down the struggles of being a cancer patient both rich and poor

2 years ago

I liked the comparison between rich and poor patients. Good job1