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Crowdfunding Can Help Pay for Cancer Care, But Takes Emotional Toll

Crowdfunding Can Help Pay for Cancer Care, But Takes Emotional Toll

Crowdfunding helps some U.S. cancer patients pay bills, but it can trigger shame and other negative feelings in some people, a new study finds.

“Young adults are at that point in life where they are beginning to achieve financial independence and finding career employment,” said study first author Lauren Ghazal, a postdoctoral nursing student at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. “When a cancer diagnosis hits, it can really impact that young person’s financial well-being.”

For the study, Ghazal and her team surveyed 46 young adult cancer survivors who turned to crowdfund to help cover their medical and living expenses during treatment. Crowdfunding involves raising money from family, friends, and others.

The average amount raised by study participants was $3,500, and half said they did not meet their goal.

But patients said crowdfunding was “a lifesaver” because they might not have been able to afford treatment or daily expenses without it, according to findings published recently in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

At the same time, patients also said they were uneasy and humiliated about having to turn to crowdfunding.

“Asking for help is difficult. It’s even harder for a young adult who just got diagnosed with a serious illness. This is not something a young adult cancer patient does lightly. And it’s not something that necessarily should be expected — that they immediately have to disclose their whole history on a social media site to pay their bills,” Ghazal said in a university news release.

While crowdfunding helps address immediate needs, the authors said it is “the epitome of treating symptoms without attention to their root causes.”

Ghazal noted that crowdfunding is an individual solution.

“We need to look at broader interventions to reduce financial toxicity and increase social support for young adult cancer survivors,” she said.

While the study focused on young adult cancer survivors, misgivings about crowdfunding could apply to cancer patients in other groups and to people with other serious medical conditions, the study authors noted.

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