Treatment cost can impact health of cancer survivors
A significant number of people who have survived cancer are living in poverty, which can have negative effects on their physical and mental health, according to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.
Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which contains data from people across the US regarding health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions and their use of preventive services, they found that 12% of some 28,000 cancer survivors were living in poverty.
Many cancer treatments now total $100,000 or more annually, and without health insurance, those costs can be entirely out-of-pocket.
Looking to replicate findings from pilot studies in breast cancer, the research team looked at patients with leukemia and lymphoma from the national dataset and identified the same issues. 3.As in the national dataset, many leukemia and lymphoma survivors at the Georgia Cancer Center are low-income and struggle to make ends meet.
Among those they studied, the prevalence of self-reported poor health conditions was significantly higher among low-income cancer survivors compared to higher-income survivors — 59% for low-income compared to 27% for high. Low-income survivors were also more than three times as likely to report the inability to see a doctor because of the associated cost.
Cancer-related financial hardship can be the result of anything from the cost of treatment to reduced income from missing work or unemployment. "Cancer survivors also may experience medical debt and diminished consumer credit, which is especially true for racial and ethnic minorities and low-income individuals" the authors said.
To help combat the problem, health care providers should screen oncology patients for financial hardship the first time they see them and, when necessary, refer them to appropriate resources like social workers and financial counselors.
Dr. Jorge Cortes et al,JCO Oncology Practice, Characteristics of Cancer Survivors Living in Poverty in the United States: Results From the 2020 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey.
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed