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New survey highlights burden of medical debt, food insecurity

Latest ACS CAN Survivor Views data finds affordability leading policy priority for cancer patients and survivors.

On Feb. 14, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) released its latest Survivor Views survey. The survey, which asked participants to select their leading policy priorities for the year, shows that protecting free preventive cancer screenings and reducing the burden of medical debt are the top issues of concern for cancer patients and survivors.

Policies to address the high costs of cancer have grown in support among those impacted 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,” said 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.”

The recent high costs of cancer care also is resulting in food insecurity for patients, particularly for individuals with lower incomes and Black and Hispanic patients. The survey found that more than 40% of cancer patients and survivors reported 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 reported accumulating debt to buy food while paying for their cancer care.

The survey data was collected between Jan. 3 – 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.

Addressing medical debt in the U.S. is critical to reducing the cancer burden for everyone. ACS CAN has long supported public policies that help improve access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage that reduce the likelihood or severity of medical debt. Through its partnership with the Alliance to End Hunger coalition, ACS CAN continues to support policies that advance health equity by addressing food and nutrition insecurity for individuals, families, and communities. Learn more at

Through ACS CAN’s Survivor Views initiative, ACS CAN receives direct feedback from cancer patients and survivors about their experiences and their perspectives on critical cancer-related issues. This information helps shape the development of policy positions and provides important evidence to support the enactment of these policies.

For more information on Survivor Views, visit ACS CAN’s website at

Like and share posts on X (formerly Twitter) from CEO Dr. Karen Knudsen and ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse.

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