Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 975–987 | Cite as

As if the disease was not enough: coping with the financial consequences of cancer

  • Barbara HeadEmail author
  • Lesley Harris
  • Karen Kayser
  • Amy Martin
  • Lisa Smith
Original Article



The goal of this research was to understand how cancer survivors cope with the financial consequences of their disease.


Twenty-six cancer survivors who self-identified as having experienced financial hardship related to their disease were interviewed. Transcripts of these interviews were analyzed using constructivist grounded theory approach. An analysis of codes related to coping strategies was conducted, and findings were stratified based on established coping theories (Lazarus and Folkman and Moos and Holahan) previously applied to coping with serious/chronic illnesses.


Participants used both person-oriented/emotion-focused and task/problem-focused coping skills to confront the financial consequences of their disease trajectory. Problem-focused skills included dealing with debt, accessing financial assistance, making lifestyle changes, seeking information and education, altering treatment protocols, being proactive, and negotiating insurance. Emotion-focused tasks included using personal strengths, expressing emotion, accessing social support, being determined, and taking care of oneself. Results were further analyzed using Moos and Holahan’s framework of coping skills; examples of each of these coping skills were identified in the interview data.


Facing serious financial ramifications due to a cancer diagnosis calls forth coping skills and tasks that can be categorized using coping theories traditionally applied to coping with the illness itself. Cancer patients are often confronted with dual threats: the physical and emotional impact of the illness and the loss of financial security and the lifestyle that they have worked to maintain. Interventions with cancer survivors should include facilitating effective coping with the financial implications of the disease.


Coping Cancer Financial consequences Financial toxicity Financial burden 



The authors would like to acknowledge Ariel Washington for her assistance with recruiting and collecting data for this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

All study procedures were approved the Intuitional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Louisville [blinded for review].

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

The authors have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Head
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Lesley Harris
    • 2
  • Karen Kayser
    • 2
  • Amy Martin
    • 1
  • Lisa Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Louisville School of MedicineLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.Kent School of Social WorkUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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