Protecting free preventive cancer screenings and reducing the burden of medical debt are the top issues of concern for cancer patients and survivors today, according to a new survey by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) that asked participants to select their leading policy priorities for the year.

Policies to address the high costs of cancer have grown in support among those touched by cancer, reflecting the urgency to address this issue in the U.S. In this most recent Survivor Views survey, 52% of respondents named protecting no-cost preventive care as one of their top three policy priorities, compared to 37% in 2020, while the importance of addressing medical debt increased from 33% in 2020 to 51% today.

“The system is failing families touched by cancer as affordability continues to be one of the leading barriers to cancer care and causes of medical debt,” added Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “With the ever-growing costs of medical care, it’s no surprise to see the individuals in active cancer treatment or with a recent cancer diagnosis elect free coverage of cancer preventive services and reduced medical debt as the leading health care issues facing them today. We need to prioritize policies that make health care affordable for everyone and make medical debt less prevalent to ensure everyone has a fighting chance against cancer.”

Today’s high costs of cancer care is also leading to food insecurity for patients, particularly for individuals with lower incomes and Black and Hispanic patients. More than 40% of cancer patients and survivors surveyed report that the cost of their cancer care has impacted their ability to afford purchasing food and has them worried about running out of food. Approximately 40% of cancer patients and survivors have reported accumulating debt in order to buy food while paying for their cancer care.

“No one should have to choose between being able to afford food and pay for their cancer care, yet cancer patients and survivors experience food insecurity at high rates,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of the ACS CAN. “Having consistent access to affordable nutritious food, including fruits and vegetables, has a direct impact on our health and can help both reduce the risk of cancer and improve cancer outcomes. We must take action now to address the high costs of medical care if we are to end cancer as we know it, for everyone.”

The survey data was collected between January 3 to January 22, 2024. A total of 1,542 cancer patients and survivors who were treated or diagnosed within the past seven years responded to the questionnaire. Differences reported between groups are tested for statistical significance at a 95% confidence interval.

This press release was originally published February 14, 2024, by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. It is republished with permission.