Nav: Home

Curing breast cancer but at what cost? Patients report heavy financial toll

July 23, 2018

ANN ARBOR, Michigan -- As treatment for early stage breast cancer becomes less extensive and more precise, a new concern is surfacing: Cancer takes an enormous toll financially on many people.

A new study led by researchers at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center finds many patients are concerned about the financial impact of their diagnosis and treatment, and that they feel their doctor's offices are not helping with these concerns.

"We have made a lot of progress in breast cancer treatment, which is wonderful. But this study shows we are only part of the way to our goal. We must now turn our efforts to confronting the financial devastation many patients face," says lead study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., deputy chair and professor of radiation oncology at Michigan Medicine.

Researchers surveyed about 2,500 patients treated for early stage breast cancer and 845 treating surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. The study is published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

About 38 percent of women were at least somewhat worried about finances because of their breast cancer treatment, and some experienced extensive hardships. Overall, 14 percent of patients reported losing more than 10 percent of their household income, and 17 percent spent more than 10 percent of their household income on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

The financial burden varied significantly by race and ethnicity, with African-American and Latina women experiencing more concerns, including debt from treatment, losing their home, having utilities turned off for unpaid bills and cutting back on spending for food.

Among physicians, many reported engagement and concern about the costs and financial burden related to the treatments they recommended. Half of all medical oncologists and 43 percent radiation oncologists said someone in their practice often or always discusses financial burden with patients. Only 16 percent of surgeons did.

But of those patients worried about their finances, 73 percent said their doctor's office did not help. The mismatch suggests the need to improve communication around financial hardship. The researchers stress the importance of physicians or their staff assessing all patients for financial issues and ensuring the communication is effective and clear.

"To cure a patient's disease at the cost of financial ruin falls short of our duty as physicians to serve. It's simply not acceptable to ignore patients' financial distress any longer," Jagsi says.
-end-
Additional authors: Kevin C. Ward, Paul H. Abrahamse, Lauren P. Wallner, Allison W. Kurian, Ann S. Hamilton, Steven J. Katz, Sarah T. Hawley

Funding: National Cancer Institute grants P01CA163233, P30CA46592

Disclosure: None

Reference: Cancer, doi: 10.1002/cncr.31532; published online July 23, 2018

Resources:

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, http://www.rogelcancercenter.org

Michigan Health Lab, http://www.MichiganHealthLab.org

Michigan Medicine Cancer AnswerLine, 800-865-1125

Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Related Cancer Articles:

Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
Cancer genomics continued: Triple negative breast cancer and cancer immunotherapy
Continuing PLOS Medicine's special issue on cancer genomics, Christos Hatzis of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., USA and colleagues describe a new subtype of triple negative breast cancer that may be more amenable to treatment than other cases of this difficult-to-treat disease.
Metabolite that promotes cancer cell transformation and colorectal cancer spread identified
Osaka University researchers revealed that the metabolite D-2-hydroxyglurate (D-2HG) promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition of colorectal cancer cells, leading them to develop features of lower adherence to neighboring cells, increased invasiveness, and greater likelihood of metastatic spread.
UH Cancer Center researcher finds new driver of an aggressive form of brain cancer
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have identified an essential driver of tumor cell invasion in glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer that can occur at any age.
UH Cancer Center researchers develop algorithm to find precise cancer treatments
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers developed a computational algorithm to analyze 'Big Data' obtained from tumor samples to better understand and treat cancer.
New analytical technology to quantify anti-cancer drugs inside cancer cells
University of Oklahoma researchers will apply a new analytical technology that could ultimately provide a powerful tool for improved treatment of cancer patients in Oklahoma and beyond.
Radiotherapy for lung cancer patients is linked to increased risk of non-cancer deaths
Researchers have found that treating patients who have early stage non-small cell lung cancer with a type of radiotherapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy is associated with a small but increased risk of death from causes other than cancer.
Cancer expert says public health and prevention measures are key to defeating cancer
Is investment in research to develop new treatments the best approach to controlling cancer?
UI Cancer Center, Governors State to address cancer disparities in south suburbs
The University of Illinois Cancer Center and Governors State University have received a joint four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help both institutions conduct community-based research to reduce cancer-related health disparities in Chicago's south suburbs.
Leading cancer research organizations to host international cancer immunotherapy conference
The Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research will join forces to sponsor the first International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York, Sept.

Related Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".