Nearly 29% of cancer survivors face financial burden: 7 findings

Nearly 29 percent of cancer survivors are financially burdened as a result of their cancer diagnosis and/or treatment, a study published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, indicates.

The study also reveals such hardships can have lasting physical and mental effects on these cancer survivors.

For the study, authors analyzed 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data on 19.6 million cancer survivors. They considered financial burden to be present if one of the following problems was reported: borrowed money/declared bankruptcy, worried about paying large medical bills, unable to cover the cost of medical care visits, or other financial sacrifices.

Here are seven findings from the study.

1. Of the 19.6 million cancer survivors analyzed, 28.7 percent reported financial burden.

2. Twenty-one percent of cancer survivors in the analysis worried about paying large medical bills, 11.5 percent were unable to cover the cost of medical care visits, 7.6 percent reported borrowing money or going into debt, 1.5 percent declared bankruptcy, and 8.6 percent reported other financial sacrifices.

3. Cancer survivors who faced such financial difficulties had lower physical and mental health-related quality of life, increased odds of depressed mood and psychological distress, and were more likely to worry about cancer recurrence compared with cancer survivors who did not face financial burden.

4. As the number of financial problems reported by cancer survivors increased, their quality of life continued to decrease and their risk for depressed mood, psychological distress and worries about cancer recurrence continued to rise.

5. The study found declaring bankruptcy was associated with a 20 to 25 percent reduction in quality of life, while worrying about paying large medical bills was associated with a reduction of 6 to 8 percent.

6. "Our results suggest that policies and practices that minimize cancer patients' out-of-pocket costs can improve survivors' health-related quality of life and psychological health," one of the study's authors, Norman Carroll, PhD, of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, said in a prepared statement. "Reducing the financial burden of cancer care requires integrated efforts, and the study findings are useful for survivorship care programs, oncologists, payers, pharmaceutical companies and patients and their family members."

7. In light of the findings, Hrishikesh Kale, who also helped write the study, said oncologists should consider selecting treatments that are less expensive but similar in effectiveness to help ease the financial burden on cancer patients. Oncologists should also discuss treatment costs with patients and involve patients in making decisions about their therapy, according to Mr. Kale.


More articles on finance and revenue cycle management:

Medical billing makes Missouri AG's top 10 list of consumer complaints
Vermont sees surge in Medicaid hospital visits and payments: 7 findings
Power cut off at Puerto Rico hospital that owes $4M


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