Breast cancer survivors
Her2+ breast cancer
Men with breast cancer
People with a genetic mutation linked to cancer risk
Triple negative breast cancer
Women under 45
Women over 45
Special populations: Survivors of other cancers
Cancer-related financial burden can keep survivors from getting the care that they need, yet how this burden affects mental and physical health is still unknown. A study found that almost one-third of cancer survivors report having financial burden; those most likely to be affected were under age 65, female, members of racial or ethnic minority groups, and people who lack access to adequate insurance. (5/17/16)
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How financial burden affects the quality of life of cancer survivors.
Financial burden from a cancer diagnosis and treatment can keep survivors from the medical care they need, resulting in delayed diagnosis, missed follow-up visits, and skipped treatments. But very little research has looked at how financial burden affects the physical and emotional health of cancer patients.
This study indicates that cancer survivors with financial burden are more likely to have a lower overall quality of life and reduced physical and mental/emotional health. According to the study authors, “Decreasing the financial burden of cancer is a complex problem that requires integrated efforts from health care systems, patients, and providers.” Patients who have financial trouble should discuss this with their health care providers.
The same article was also covered by Medical Xpress
Medical News Today
Oncology Nurse Advisor
Multiple research groups have looked at how much patients spend related to cancer. One group observed that lost income and out-of-pocket care expenses cost breast cancer patients an average of $1,455 per month. Another group found that the average cancer patient had estimated out–of-pocket costs of about $4,727 per year. Previous studies have noted that 12% of all breast cancer patients are in debt four years after their diagnosis.
What remains unknown is how these financial problems affect the physical and mental health of cancer survivors. In March of 2016, Hrishikesh Kale and Norman Carroll from the Virginia Commonwealth University studied the quality of life of cancer survivors who were experiencing financial burden.
The study population represented 19.6 million cancer survivors through the 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The majority of this population was non-Hispanic white females who were diagnosed with cancer before age 65. This population included all cancers, but notably, 17% had breast cancer.
The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data does not include information about the cancer stage, severity, or treatment used, so researchers could not control for these factors. Nor could they control for psychiatric illness that preceded a cancer diagnosis. This is a limitation, because if cancer survivors had a history of psychiatric illness before their diagnoses, the patient depression found in this study cannot be attributed to financial burden. Finally, because patients self-reported information through surveys, some information may have been incorrect (for example, exaggerations, omission of critical information, or simply forgetting details).
This study suggests that cancer-related financial burden negatively affects the quality of survivors’ mental and physical health. Cancer survivors who experience financial burden should ask for a referral to a social worker or patient navigator. These health care workers can connect patients to resources that provide financial assistance, access to low-cost medications, assistance with insurance appeals and support in navigating the health care and health insurance systems.
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