25% of Breast Cancer Survivors Report Financial Burdens After Treatment

March 26, 2014
Christina Izzo

A new study has found that one in four breast cancer survivors report that they are worse off financially even 4 years after their last treatment and 12% report they still have medical debt from their treatment.

Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil

A new study has found that one in four breast cancer survivors report that they are worse off financially even 4 years after their last treatment and 12% report they still have medical debt from their treatment.

The study, led by University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers, analyzed surveys given to 1502 women in Detroit and Los Angeles who had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. The women were surveyed 9 months after diagnosis and then again 4 years later, the researchers said.

“As oncologists, we are proud of the advances in our ability to cure an increasing proportion of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. But as treatments improve, we must ensure that we do not leave these patients in financial ruin because of our efforts,” study author Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School said in a press release

The surveys asked about patients’ perceptions of whether they were worse off financially since their diagnosis, and whether that has caused long-term challenges. Participants were asked a range of questions about their medical care (if they had skipped medication or missed doctor’s appointments due to financial concerns) and other financial hardships (if they had to move out of their house or if they ever had their utilities turned off).

Results found that financial decline varied significantly by race. Spanish-speaking Latinas were the most likely to be impacted, while debt was reported more frequently in English-speaking Latinas and Blacks.

Other factors that contributed to women’s financial hardships were being under the age of 65, having a household income under $50,000, working part-time at the time of diagnosis, having to reduce hours after diagnosis, having a lack of substantial prescription drug coverage, experiencing breast cancer recurrence, or undergoing chemotherapy.

“These patients are particularly vulnerable to financial distress,” Jagsi said in a press release. “We need to ensure appropriate communication between patients and their doctors regarding the financial implications of a cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions to help reduce this long-term burden.”

Reference

Jagsi R, Pottow J, Griffith K, et al. Long-term financial burden of breast cancer: experiences of a diverse cohort of survivors identified through population-based registries [published online before print March 24, 2014]. J Clin Oncol. ​