Study Looks at How Patients Cope with Treatment Related Financial Distress

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One of the scariest things about a cancer diagnosis is the looming threat of overwhelming medical bills.

A recent study confirmst that this threat has very real consequences, causing patients to not only cut back on their lifestyles but alter their treatment.

Researchers from North Carolina conducted a survey study of adults being treated for cancer between June 2010 and May 2011 participating in a national copay assistance program and found that nine out of ten used at least one lifestyle-altering strategy to cope with the high costs of cancer care.

Of 174 participants, 89 percent used at least one lifestyle-altering strategy. These strategies included:

  • Spending less on leisure activities (77%)
  • Spending less on basics (57%)
  • Borrowing money (54%)
  • Spending savings (50%)

They also found that 39 percent, or nearly four out of ten used a care-altering strategy, which included:

  • Not filling a prescription (28%)
  • Taking less medication than prescribed (23%)

Ultimately they were able to determine that those patients who are more likely to alter their cancer care are younger patients and patients with lower incomes.

The research team believes that "Screening for and anticipating potentially harmful cost-coping behavior in the oncology clinic is important to reduce patient distress and promote optimal care."

Source: Abstract 161, 2014 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium

Photo of Dollar Loan by John Nyboer

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