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Ovarian Cancer

Financial implications

People living with cancer may have extra costs to meet because of their illness. This can be difficult for people on a low income, or who have to give up work. Some women we spoke to lost income through missing work due to their cancer. 

Employed people who cannot work through illness are entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. Many women we spoke to received their full salary for part or all or their sick leave; some went on half pay after a certain time. One felt guilty about being paid while off sick. In addition to sick pay, another received payments from critical illness and income protection insurance policies that she had.

 

Obtained sick pay from her employer and payments from critical illness and income protection...

Obtained sick pay from her employer and payments from critical illness and income protection...

Age at interview: 51
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 48
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So have you lost a lot of income or are you on sickness benefit?

Well, my contract as such is I'm on full pay for 100 days and half-pay for 100 days, but I was very lucky because about four years ago, somebody came and did all my finances, went through my finances, and I had Critical Illness Insurance and an Income Protection Insurance, so I had quite a big lump sum payout from one insurance company, and my Income Protection makes up to sixty per cent of my salary, so when I go on to half salary and when they stop paying me if I don't go back to work, I will still have a reasonable income. Not as much as I would if I was working, but certainly, financially I will be reasonably, solvent. Won't be obviously as much as if I was working, but I won't be destitute.

Two women had moved house and taken out a bigger mortgage shortly before they became ill. One regretted not having taken out critical illness insurance when it was offered with the new mortgage. The other used her savings to pay the mortgage and felt pressured to return to work after treatment to restore her income. However, she had to leave after her cancer returned. She lost her salary, private health insurance, company car, and had to move to a smaller house and claim state benefits. Self-employed women who had no income protection insurance lost all their income if they could not work.

 

While off sick paid for a new mortgage from savings, then left work when her cancer returned,...

While off sick paid for a new mortgage from savings, then left work when her cancer returned,...

Age at interview: 50
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 47
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You said you had to go back for financial reasons. How did it work out financially, being off sick from your company?

Well at first they were very good. The first time around they were very good, you know, just putting me on half pay and things like that, which was good. But at the time we'd just bought a new house and we had two houses at once. So we had a huge mortgage so a lot of my savings went and because they left my job open after 6 months I really felt obliged to go back, and so I went back full-time straight away within a month of finishing my chemo.  

But I did go back for a year but then when the cancer came back this time obviously I don't think work was interested anymore anyway and they were a little bit less compassionate this time, you know. And it was hard, you know, the company car going and, you know, the big salary going and going onto benefits. But, you know, I've now moved home, got a lesser home and you know, things are fine. Money's not everything.

Some women retired early as a result of their illness and received an occupational pension. One retired to the UK from a job abroad but her husband remained abroad to maintain his income to support her and their children (see 'Lifestyle and work changes'). Running two households was costly so they exchanged their UK house for a smaller one.

 

Retired early on health grounds and received an occupational pension.

Retired early on health grounds and received an occupational pension.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 56
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Have there been any other financial implications of your illness?

Not, I don't think so, no because it was so near, I was so near retirement. I suppose the only thing is that in fact I retired on grounds of ill health which meant I retired about two months earlier than, two or three months earlier than I normally would have done, but in a way that was because if I hadn't done it that way, if I'd gone onto my normal time there would've been financial implications in the sense that I would've lost out on some pay. And in the event I didn't. The bit of time you miss gets made up when it's on health. And but I could have done supply teaching after retirement if I hadn't gone out on health grounds. Actually I wouldn't have wanted to because as things are time is too precious to spend on that sort of thing. But it's quite useful, I mean it would've been quite useful money.

Some women with small children had greater financial difficulties because their husbands also lost income by taking a break from work to care for them. One woman lost her job (as a shop worker) when she went off sick because she had not been employed long enough for it to be kept open. Another had just finished a short-term contract job before she became ill so had no income and didn't know if she could claim sick pay. A few had found it difficult to get a new job because of their medical history.

 

Lost her job when she went off sick: her employer would not keep it open for her.

Lost her job when she went off sick: her employer would not keep it open for her.

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 50
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I was working when I had the scan, and then when they told me what it was, that it was a cyst this size, I knew I'd have to go in hospital and have it removed, so I knew that was going to be quite a' by the size of it, it would be a major, not a keyhole operation and so on, so I put it to the boss, and he had a word with his boss, and basically, they said they couldn't really keep the job open for me on a long-term basis and whatever. So I said, 'Right, I'll have to give it up, then'.  

And' that was basically how it came about, I had to give it up. I couldn't physically have done it since the cancer, anyway, because of the' hernia, now, because, obviously, being shop-work, it was a lot of lifting and physical work, and with the DVT' there was a lot of standing, so' it spoilt it for me anyway. But I'd only been working there about ten months, I think, so' and I think you've got to be working somewhere for about two years to be in with a chance of, you know, they've got to keep your job open until such times and so on. So it wasn't really discrimination.  

So has that have a big impact, financially?

It did have an impact, yes, I must admit. Well, it's still having an impact. And' I mean, I didn't earn a fortune because I didn't work that many hours, but what I did earn more or less paid the mortgage of a month, so yes, that has made a difference.

A woman with children to support became bankrupt after ending her marriage and had to claim state benefits. She took a part-time job but only worked a few hours per week to remain eligible for benefits. She had also received a grant from Macmillan Cancer Support.

 

Became bankrupt following marital breakdown, worked the maximum hours per week allowed while...

Became bankrupt following marital breakdown, worked the maximum hours per week allowed while...

Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 41
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I've lost a lot of income. I was made bankrupt in the beginning of the year, well 2 years a year back now, from April, through financial problems that my husband and I had. Basically he was in and out of work a lot in the end. He was a very professional man to begin with. Alcohol got the better of him, started taking out loans, all this had to be paid back, which didn't work. We had a trust deed signed because he wasn't, he gave up work while I was ill, to supposedly look after me, but it didn't quite work like that. And once I got back on my feet a year after I was ill I started to, the solicitors rang me about this trust deed. And he had also left me with quite a bit of debt when he left in the November, and a solicitor suggested that I go down the lines of bankruptcy, so I was made bankrupt in April last year.

I do 3 hours therapeutic work but I possibly could do more work, but, the financial situation I'm in is, I'm on disability and I don't get any maintenance, so I'm on benefits and I'm allowed to earn a certain amount a week which covers my 3 hours, so if I go and do more work that then puts everything else in jeopardy. And I know I'm not able to do like, so 16 hours work, which I would have to do, but I can't, I don't do that, so I'm still doing 3 hours therapeutic work.

Women commonly found out about their entitlement to state benefits from friends, social workers or Macmillan nurses, who often helped with the application forms. People who are terminally ill can apply for these benefits under special rules which mean their claim will be dealt with quickly and they may receive a higher rate of benefit. Applying for benefits upset one woman because it brought home to her the things she could no longer do. Others, who were recieving higher rates of benefits discovered they were entitled to a disabled parking permit, or exemption from road tax. 

 

A social worker helped her to apply for Incapacity Benefit.

A social worker helped her to apply for Incapacity Benefit.

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 56
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Which benefits have you had?

I'm trying to think what it's actually called. I'm not sure what it's called because I, I mean I could go and look it up, whether it's incapacity or but it's something on those, on those lines. She actually completed the, brought  it up with me, said "Have you applied for anything like this? And I don't want to be embarrassing by talking about money but," and I said no I hadn't, I'd actually had forms at an earlier stage but had found it impossible to fill it in at the time because I was on treatment and my mind just was soggy, I couldn't concentrate. And then someone had told me that it was unlikely I'd get anything anyway because, so she said "Oh that's not true, it's not means tested, it's according to need and if you don't mind I'll fill it in for you." And, and she did and it was accepted.

 

Describes what you are asked when applying for Disability Living Allowance; a Macmillan nurse...

Describes what you are asked when applying for Disability Living Allowance; a Macmillan nurse...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 48
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What do you need to do to qualify for that then? 

For Disability Living Allowance?

You have to well you have to fill in these forms that ask you questions both about personal care and about mobility and, so they ask you things like how long it would take you to walk a certain distance. I can't remember how far it was now, 10 yards, 30 yards, something like that. And how much pain you're in and those sorts of questions. It's a form that covers a lot of disabilities so there are a lot of questions that don't apply like 'Can you use your arms and legs?' that don't apply to me. And 'Do you need help with dressing and washing?' and  those sorts of things. And then there's three rates of allowance you can get, there's higher, middle and lower. At the moment I'm on the higher rate, which is good. But the MacMillan nurse helped me fill it in and that was, she was very useful in that respect.


The names and types of state benefits given has changed since these interviews. For more information on the latest benefits see GOV.UK.

Some women talked about costs incurred because of their illness, such as travelling to hospital appointments and parking. Patients on low incomes can obtain help with costs of travel to receive NHS treatment by asking at the hospital for refund form. Prescription charges for cancer patients in England have since been abolished; there are no prescription charges in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A few women chose to pay for wigs because they didn't like those offered by the NHS or because they had treatment privately. One woman bought a wheelchair to get about when she was very ill. Some paid for complementary therapies (see 'Complementary approaches'). Another paid for domestic help and found that buying ready-made meals was expensive.

 

Talks about the costs of travelling to London for hospital appointments and the pros and cons of...

Talks about the costs of travelling to London for hospital appointments and the pros and cons of...

Age at interview: 51
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 48
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The travelling up and down, I've had to go in and out of London, and I don't get any help with that, so I've had to pay all the fares for that, which has been, you know, it's quite expensive going in and out of London, but I haven't got anywhere locally. 

I could have transport - I have had transport home a couple of times, but the problem with that is, if there are other people in your area, you have to go at seven o'clock in the morning, and you're there all day. So in a way I'd rather pay, go by train, and be a law unto myself as to what time I go and what time I come back. But, I don't think it's financially it's affecting me any other way really. 

Not all insurance companies will insure people who have had cancer; women who wanted to travel sometimes found it difficult to get insurance or had to pay higher premiums or more towards the cost of treatment. One woman obtained travel insurance from her private health insurers. Another didn't tell her insurers about her cancer before travelling. One woman could not get life insurance with her new mortgage. 

 

Describes the difficulties and costs of obtaining travel insurance when you have had cancer.

Describes the difficulties and costs of obtaining travel insurance when you have had cancer.

Age at interview: 51
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 48
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Have there been any other financial implications? You mentioned travel insurance to me earlier.

Yes, going on holiday, travel insurance is difficult. You have to search around for a company and then you literally have to pay through the nose for it, or if the premium is reasonable, your excess is' You have to pay the first thousand pounds, so if you are taken ill while you're abroad it costs you a fortune. That's one difficulty. But I have been on about four foreign holidays. I haven't let it stop me! But it is' that is difficult, that sort of thing. 


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Last reviewed June 2016.

Last updated June 2016.

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