Economic issues for cancer survivors to be explored

November 27, 1999

University Park, Pa. --- How does surviving cancer affect people's lives? What kinds of health care programs or changes in government policy would help cancer survivors to cope better with the challenges they face? Answers to these and related questions will be sought in a new $2 million, five-year research study funded by a National Cancer Institute grant to Penn State.

The study will be conducted by researchers in Penn State's Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR). The principal investigator is Dr. Pamela Farley Short, CHPR director and professor of health policy and administration, and the project director is Dr. Joseph J. Vasey, CHPR research associate. Co-investigators are Dr. Lucy C. Yu, professor of health policy and administration; Dr. Mark D. Hayward, director, Population Research Institute and professor of sociology and demography; Dr. Mark Young and Dr. David T. Mauger, Penn State College of Medicine; and Dr. James R. Zabora, Department of Oncology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

A sample of about 4,000 people who were recently diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer will be identified from four registries of cancer patients in the Mid-Atlantic region. Together, these tumor registries draw patients from inner-city, small urban, suburban and rural areas. The cancer survivors will be interviewed by telephone to gather information about their lives (including their employment, insurance, and health) now and just before learning they had cancer. Changes in each person's life and economic circumstances before and after cancer treatment will be examined. The researchers will be looking particularly for factors that protect cancer survivors from or expose them to economic and quality-of-life changes. Data from the cancer survivors will be compared with data gathered in an independent national survey of people without cancer, and three additional interviews at one-year intervals will continue to track the effects of cancer on the lives of survivors.

Dr. Short said, "This study is exciting in two respects. First, it will follow the lives of a large sample of cancer survivors over time. One of the areas we particularly want to explore is the economic consequences of cancer survival-for example, how patients' work and health insurance are affected.

"Second, this study is a wonderful demonstration of the resources and talent that Penn State can bring to bear on important health care issues. Many of the cancer patients in the study were treated in the Penn State Geisinger Health System. We've also enlisted the cooperation and support of the cancer centers at Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network and at Johns Hopkins. Since we're involving students in this project, too, it's a great example of integrating teaching, research and service at Penn State."

The Center for Health Policy Research is part of the Institute for Policy Research and Evaluation, one of the intercollege research programs at Penn State that is specifically designed to promote intercollege and intercampus collaborations. The project is supported entirely with federal funds from the National Cancer Institute.
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Contact:
Vicki Fong 814-865-9481 (o)/ 814-238-1221 (h) vyf1@psu.edu

Penn State

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