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Avoiding Financial Toxicity and Hardships

Do you feel like cancer has taken a greater financial toll on you, than those with other serious medical conditions? Now there is evidence to support those instincts. In a study recently published in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, CANCER, a research team found that cancer survivors suffer significantly more medical financial hardship than those without a cancer history.

In this new research study, a team led by Zhiyuan Zheng, PhD, defined and examined medical financial hardship within three identified domains: 1) material hardship (e.g., difficulty paying medical bills), 2) psychological hardship (e.g., worrying about paying medical bills), and 3) behavioral hardship (e.g., forgoing/delaying care because of cost).

Of all the age groups, younger cancer survivors (aged 18-49) were found to be particularly vulnerable to this “financial toxicity.” One explanation for this, is that younger cancer survivors “do not have as much opportunity to accumulate financial assets, and with a shorter employment history, a cancer diagnosis might be more disruptive financially.” Another major factor contributing to the disparities in medical financial hardship are the rising costs of cancer treatment. According to the study, the monthly cost of new cancer drugs is roughly ten times higher than what it was 20 years ago.

 

The study also identified a disparity related to health insurance among younger cancer survivors (aged 18-49). The authors found that those with high deductible health insurance plans and no health savings accounts reported problems paying medical bills more frequently than those in the same age group with lower deductible health insurance plans.

With this in mind, anyone who receives a cancer diagnosis should ensure that they have adequate health insurance. Triage Cancer offers a number of resources, materials, webinars, and animated videos, which can help you identify the best plan for you and to minimize your out-of-pocket costs.  Triage Cancer also hosts a number of educational events to help people avoid financial toxicity, such as our Triage Cancer Conferences.

Doctors should make an effort to identify patients who might be particularly susceptible to medical financial hardship, and discuss these issues up-front with their patients so that they can be better prepared for the road that lies ahead.

If you have questions or concerns regarding financial toxicity, you can refer to this helpful checklistfor minimizing the hardship or check out many of our other financial resources by clicking here.

Samantha Skelton
ss@triagecancer.org