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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Newly Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Stages 0 - 2


Thankfully, a diagnosis of breast cancer is not what it used to be. Major medical advances have been made. New medical advances happen on an almost daily basis.

Breast cancer, Stage 0 - 2, is the most treatable of all tumors. For the great majority of women, breast cancer can be cured.

When the early confusion that usually accompanies a diagnosis starts to clear, you will find your world has shifted into a new normal. Just about every aspect of your life will be affected. We help you learn what you need to know to survive and even thrive after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Our discussion is divided into the following categories: Day To Day Living, Emotional Well Being, Finances, Government Benefits, Insurance, Medical Care, Planning Ahead, and Work Issues. We recommend that you skim the content in each category to get an overview, then return to each subject as it works for you. Underlying all discussions is "The Basics" - which is where we suggest you start.

Managing your medical care

Emotional Well Being   
  • A diagnosis can wreak havoc with your finances even if you have health insurance
    • It is important to get control of your finances as soon as you can focus.  
    • Over 50% of the personal bankruptcies in this country involve health care costs. Over 75% of those people have health insurance. While this may sound scary, think of it instead as a call to action. 
  • If you do not have health insurance (uninsured)
    • Start thinking about how to pay for your medical care. While medical care can be costly, all medical bills are negotiable.
    • Free or low cost care is available.
    • Check to see if you do, or could, qualify for Medicaid (Medi-cal in California).
    • Do what you can to obtain health insurance. (See: How To Obtain Health Insurance)
  • General finances
    • Keep up your finance basics. Pay your rent or mortgage and minimums on your credit card. After a diagnosis, credit can be critical to helping you through. This is not a time to negatively impact your credit rating if you can avoid it. See: New Uses Of Credit
    • Pay your health insurance premium on time. Arrange for someone to pay premiums for you or for automatic payment if you get sick or undergo a treatment and forget. An insurance company would like nothing better than to cancel your insurance for nonpayment.
    • Start keeping track of all medical services you receive and expenses you pay. Do not pay a medical bill just because you receive one. First make sure that you are supposed to pay it, and that the bill is correct.
    • Cash can be king. Keep as much of it as you can.
      • Put off discretionary purchases for now. 
      • Use credit instead of cash when possible.  
    • If you are considering purchasing an expensive item such as a car, see if you can get credit life insurance on the balance. Generally this kind of insurance does not request medical information. It will pay off the debt in the event of your death.
    • Start accepting the credit card offers you get in the mail.  Credit can be important after a diagnosis, including providing cash if you need it. 
    • While it may seem counter intuitive, put as much money as you can in retirement accounts. Contributions minimize taxes now and protect the money from creditors.
  • If money is an issue
    • Some financial assistance is available if needed for women with breast cancer.
    • Only pay creditors the minimum while you learn more about your situation. If necessary, you can negotiate with creditors about paying off debt over time, and/or reducing the amount of the debt. For information about how to negotiate with creditors, click here. There are non-profit services available to help if you need it (but watch for the non-profit organizations that do not work in your interest). Bankruptcy is also an option. Over 60% of the personal bankruptcies in the US are people with medical debt.
    • For additional information about dealing with a financial crunch or crisis, click here.
  • If you have more income than outgo
    • Unless you have it already, start working toward a goal of a cash fund (an Emergency+Fund) equal to 3 to 6 months of monthly expenses. This is the amount of money generally recommended to have on hand in case of periods of no income or unexpected expense.  It doesn’t mean you have to put this much money away today. However, now is the time to start. (If you work in a specialized area where there are very few jobs, aim for 12 months of expenses in your fund.)
    • Put as much money as you can spare into your retirement accounts. Saving tax dollars is the same as earning extra money. You can usually withdraw money or borrow it if necessary. If you become disabled, withdrawals are usually without penalty. Plus, money in a retirement account is protected from creditors. If you have a choice of accounts:
      • First priority is to fund accounts in which your employer matches your contribution. The value of your contribution is increased as soon as you put it into the account.
      • Then consider:
        • Which accounts are easier to withdraw money from or borrow against in case of unexpected expense. Pay particular attention to when you can do these things as well as the costs you’ll pay, such as penalties.
        • Which accounts are earning you the most money.
        • If you need help with this decision, speak with a financial planner, your accountant or attorney.
      • If you still have money left, consider opening new retirement accounts to the maximum permitted by the tax laws.  
  • Postpone big decisions to the extent you can
    • It is wise to postpone making big decisions that don't relate to your health care until you are calm emotionally and your thinking is clear. It is quite natural that your thinking is impacted by your diagnosis. You may not return to a more "normal" emotional state until after treatment ends. The treatment, or drugs you take during treatment, may have an affect on your thinking as well.
  • If you could become disabled
    • If you will be unable to work and your income will stop, think about how you will live. We discuss the subject, including how to deal with creditors, in: In Treatment For Breast Cancer. For instance, you may be able to get cash from assets without selling them or even get cash from your life insurance policy.
  • For additional information, see:Finances
  • If you have Health Insurance (including Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California)
    • Health insurance cannot be cancelled because of your diagnosis.
    • Check your health insurance policy to find out:
      • If you need pre-approval before you access medical care. If approval is needed: For what is it needed? How do you get approval?
      • Whether your insurance covers the treatment you want. If so, are there conditions and/or restrictions?
      • Whether it covers the person you want to provide the treatment.
      • How much you will have to pay out of pocket.
      • How to file claims. If it is your job to file claims, set up a system to keep track.
    • If your insurer says "no" to any medical care you believe is necessary, appeal - and keep appealing. Keeping at it pays off. To learn how, click here.  In addition to appealing through the insurer's system, look for a source of influence that can help (such as your employer if you have an employer based policy.)  Get professional help if necessary. Keep in mind that there are usually procedures to fast track appeals if required by the medical situation.
  • Do everything you can to help keep health insurance in force. If you don't have it, when things settle, start doing what you can to get it. People who have had any type of cancer are at risk of the cancer returning or of another cancer in the future.
  • If You Do Not Have Health Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
    • If there is a possibility your breast cancer will make you unable to work for a short period of time or permanently:
    • Check to see if you have disability income coverage through your employer. If you do, what is the waiting period before you receive money, and then how much?
    • If you have a private disability policy, check to see what is defined as a "disability."
    • If you have a work history, check to see if you qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).(If you may qualify for SSDI, taking the steps we describe in our article will make it more likely that your claim will be approved).
  • Life Insurance
    • You can still get life insurance. In addition to providing an asset for your heirs, your diagnosis raises new uses of life insurance. For instance, you may be able to access a benefit while you are alive. For these reasons, we suggest that you get as much life insurance as you can. For example:
      • You can get insurance known as "guaranteed" life insurance which is sold with few if any questions.
      • You may be able to get life insurance through your employer during an open enrollment period when no medical questions are asked - or increase the death benefit for life insurance you already have.   
      • You may be able to get a death benefit on your existing or new credit cards. 
  • Other Insurance
Work Issues

Government Benefits

Planning Ahead

It may be the last subject you want to think about right now, but your diagnosis is a reminder that every one of us should think through what could happen "just in case" - and then take the necessary steps. We cover the subject in Planning Ahead. When things settle, we highly recommend reading the information gathered there.

For now, at least consider the following.

  • Every treatment has risks. The risk that you will become unable to speak for yourself is likely minimal. However, the resulting impact on you and your finances could be huge. Consider what you would want to happen medically if you become unable to speak for yourself. Think about what you would not want to happen such as being kept alive for years on a machine. Then make sure what you desire happens by executing documents known as "Advance Healthcare Directives" (or more simply as "Advance Directives.") Advance Directives are available for free for each state.
    • Executing an Advance Directive does not mean that it will be needed. These documents are merely a means for you to stay in control. Also, executing these documents can help ease the anxiety that accompanies an impending treatment.
    • One advance directive to consider is a Living Will. In general, a Living Will states what you do, and do not, want to happen. If Terry Schiavo had executed a LIving Will, there would not have been a court battle and wasted years hooked to a machine.
    • Another document to consider is a Health Care Power of Attorney. It appoints a person to act on your behalf (a "Proxy"). A Proxy can make a decision in the gray areas that frequently occur. A Proxy can also push for enforcement of your wishes. (f you appoint a Proxy, be sure to ask him or her to read Survivorship A to Z information about How to enforce an Advance Directive.)
    • If you are going to check in to a hospital: Expect to be asked by the admissions person whether you have a Living Will and other advance directives. If you do not, you will be offered the forms the hospital uses. Even if you do have a Living Will, consider creating a duplicate on the hospital forms. In the event of an emergency, staff will know what to do if you use the hospital form. If you use your own form, staff may have to seek an opinion about the correct meaning of your document from the legal department which can slow things down considerably.
  • What would happen to your children if you cannot take care of them while you are still alive, or if you die. For information, click here.
  • What would happen to your assets if you die. 
    • At the least, everyone needs to have a Will - no matter how little or much you own.Wills are not expensive - and can even be free.
    • Check all documents with beneficiaries on them (such as brokerage accounts) to be sure that the beneficiary you want is listed. If there is more than one beneficiary, also check to be sure that the split between them is clear.
    • Consider writing an Ethical Will - a document that passes on to your heirs such information as what you think they should know about how to live life and family history.
Day To Day Living
  • For information about the areas of your life affected by your diagnosis but not covered above, click here.


  • Information can help you feel in control. On the other hand, getting ahead of your self can be overwhelming. For instance, there is no need to read about being "in treatment" or "post treatment" now. 
  • If your diagnosis is of a condition which is so advanced that you may be facing end of life issues, read End of Life.

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