Cancer patients face high stress from medical bills

Cancer survivors have high stress levels from medical financial hardship, such as struggling to pay bills, a study published in Cancer found.

Medical financial hardships include intense worry over unpaid bills and delaying needed care because of cost concerns.

The research team looked at data on 4,340 adult cancer survivors under 65 and 98,692 people the same age who never had cancer. They also looked at 6,014 cancer survivors age 65 and older, plus 25,744 older adults who did not have cancer.

Most of the survivors received their diagnosis at least 10 years earlier. About two-thirds of them were insured through employers or another kind of private health coverage.

The researchers found cancer survivors ages 18 to 49 were hit the most by financial problems. About 43 percent had medical-related financial issues, compared to 30 percent of their counterparts who never had cancer. Thirty-one percent of people in this group delayed care due to costs, compared to 21 percent of average people this age.

"Although cancer patients have benefited from newer and more advanced treatments, financial hardship may lead to emotional distress, cause changes in health behaviors and jeopardize treatment adherence and health outcomes," lead study author Zhiyuan "Jason" Zheng, PhD, told Reuters.

Young adults might face the most challenges since cancer may disrupt their education and limit their access to employer-provided health insurance, Dr. Zheng said.

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