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Financial Impact on Young Women

Reviewed by: Stephanie Fajuri, Esq.

Updated August 19, 2014

When you’re first diagnosed, your financial profile as a young woman might look like this:

  • no savings in an emergency fund
  • inadequate health insurance or no coverage at all
  • starting out in your career or working part-time
  • living on your own, without a partner or spouse
  • raising children
  • repaying student loan debt

Even if only a few of these factors match your situation, a breast cancer diagnosis brings added  financial concerns, along with medical and emotional challenges.

Finances and Young Age

The financial stresses you face as a young woman with breast cancer can be distinctly different from those of someone who is older when diagnosed. You may have limited income due to just entering the workforce or holding a low-paying job. If you need to stop working for a while because of treatment, your employer might not provide medical leave if you haven’t held the job long enough or if the company is not large enough. And you might not receive paid medical leave if it's not a work benefit or if you haven't saved enough vacation or sick time. Losing income, even for a short time, can be tough if you have no or few savings or other financial resources.

Before diagnosis, you may already have been paying all the bills you could handle within your means: rent or mortgage, utilities, school loans, car payments. Health insurance coverage can help, but medical and nonmedical expenses, such as child care while you are in treatment, can add to your existing debt. Some young women decide to move in with family, to lower costs and gain support.

If you have little or no insurance coverage and are having trouble paying your medical bills, you are probably worried about  getting timely tests or treatment. Maybe you can’t afford reconstruction or preserving your fertility.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most Americans to have health insurance. The ACA has also made it easier for people without insurance through work to get health care coverage either through the health insurance marketplaces/exchanges or the newly expanded state Medicaid programs. If you are uninsured, you can see what kind of insurance coverage you might be eligible for here.

One study showed that, compared to those without cancer, people with cancer are 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy. The greatest risk of bankruptcy is among people ages 20 to 49 – especially those who are young, female and nonwhite.

Yet there are ways to handle financial challenges, as well as resources for support, which can help you.

Tips for Dealing With Finances

Follow the linked subjects in this section for a fuller discussion of these key areas:

  • Insurance: If you have health insurance, find out what your plan covers for testing, treatment and support needs, and the limit for out-of-pocket costs (co-insurance, co-pays). The Affordable Care Act has provisions that can help young women. If you are under 26, you may be able to be insured under a parent’s insurance plan. You might qualify for Medicaid if your income is low; each state has its own rules. If your employer doesn't offer insurance, you might be eligible for tax credits that would make health insurance premiums more affordable. 
  • Paying for prescriptions and other costs: Talk with your healthcare providers and cancer center support staff about programs to help you pay for needed medicines. Oncology social workers can guide you to financial assistance resources.
  • Work-related issues: You may be eligible for medical leave or accommodations at work that permit you to continue your job during or after treatment. You may also qualify for other benefits. Check your employee manual or handbook or talk to your union representative or HR to see what benefits you might be eligible for.

Financial Assistance for Young Women

These organizations can help you with

Living expenses, out-of-pocket medical costs and more

  • The FLY Foundation: Massachusetts or Rhode Island residents only, ages 19-39, in treatment. Reimburses rent/mortgage and utilities, healthcare co-insurance and co-pays.
  • T he SAM Fund for Young Adult Survivors of Cancer: direct assistance to ages 21-39, post-treatment. Helps pay rent, utilities, car and health insurance, medical bills, co-pays, wellness services, infertility treatment and adoption.
  • We Believe Foundation – Pink Hearts of Hope: ages 15-29 diagnosed with breast cancer; helps with medical bills, other expenses
  • LBBC Cis B. Golder Quality of Life Grant: all ages affected by breast cancer, Philadelphia area residents only. Helps during treatment or in the year after; living expenses, child care, lymphedema supplies and more.

Tuition [all are scholarships]

Fertility preservation

Genetic testing for BRCA gene mutations

  • Cancer Resource Foundation: helps with BRCA test costs. Free testing for Massachusetts residents only. Program for all U.S. residents helps only with testing co-pays. Must meet eligibility criteria.


  • My Hope Chest: helps fund reconstructive surgery for uninsured women, those not eligible for Medicaid, not able to pay the costs or in exceptional circumstances

Complementary therapy, creative pursuits

  • Sy’s Fund: for ages 18-39; funds creative passions, integrative therapy such as acupuncture or therapeutic massage and more

Child care and other needs

  • CancerCare: several programs that can help young women, including child care and transportation costs
  • Cancer Resource Foundation – All4One Alliance: buys breast forms, post-mastectomy garments; provides free lymphedema sleeves, radiation bra

This article was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number DP11-1111 from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.