Meeting News CoveragePerspective

Many cancer survivors face financial, work-related hardships

More than one-quarter of cancer survivors faced at least one financial difficulty, and more than one-third of survivors who worked had to modify their work plans due to their cancer, according to survey results presented at the Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium.

The hardships were especially prevalent in patients who were minorities, those who were younger and those who did not have insurance, results showed

“In the United States, the number of survivors is increasing, as are the costs of cancer care,” Robin Whitney, RN BSN, a PhD student at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing of the University of California, Davis, said during a press conference. “Cancer survivors are at increased risk of financial hardship, and this is important not only because it can affect their quality of life, but also because individuals with more financial stress are more likely to delay or forgo needed medical care, which can put their health at risk. In our study, we wanted to study the work and financial burden among cancer survivors, and also look at disparities related to these outcomes.”

Whitney and colleagues evaluated data from 1,592 cancer survivors who were surveyed in the 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Experiences with Cancer Survivorship Supplement. About half of the participants were aged younger than 65 years (47%), 56% were female, and 88% were non-Hispanic white.

Fourteen percent of the participants were actively receiving treatment at the time of the survey. Nearly half (46%) less than 5 years post-treatment, and 39% had not received treatment for 5 or more years.

Overall, 27% of the participants reported at least one financial difficulty, such as debt, bankruptcy or worry about medical bills.

Thirty-seven percent of participants who worked reported having to modify their work plans by changing to a flexible schedule, switching to a less demanding job, not taking a promotion, retiring early/delaying retirement or taking extended/unpaid time off.

Participants in active treatment were significantly more likely to make work modifications (OR=2.9; 95% CI, 1.7-4.9) and face financial difficulties (OR=3.2; 95% CI, 2.1-5) compared with those who were in post-treatment for 5 or more years.

Participants who were a race/ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white also were more likely to experience work (OR=1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.6) or financial (OR=1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.3) hardships.

Work modifications were more common in females than males (OR=1.5; 95% CI, 1.1-2.2). Financial hardships were more common in patients aged younger than 65 years (OR=2.4; 95% CI, 1.7-3.3) or those who did not have insurance (OR=2.4; 95% CI, 1.3-4.4).

“We found that many cancer survivors, particularly those who are younger or from underserved populations, experience financial or work-related hardship — even when insured and years out from treatment,” Whitney said in a press release. “Addressing these challenges is an important aspect of providing quality cancer care, because they can substantially impact quality of life and health outcomes.”

For more information:

Whitney R. Abstract #238. Scheduled for presentation at: Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium; Oct. 24-25, 2014; Boston.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

More than one-quarter of cancer survivors faced at least one financial difficulty, and more than one-third of survivors who worked had to modify their work plans due to their cancer, according to survey results presented at the Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium.

The hardships were especially prevalent in patients who were minorities, those who were younger and those who did not have insurance, results showed

“In the United States, the number of survivors is increasing, as are the costs of cancer care,” Robin Whitney, RN BSN, a PhD student at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing of the University of California, Davis, said during a press conference. “Cancer survivors are at increased risk of financial hardship, and this is important not only because it can affect their quality of life, but also because individuals with more financial stress are more likely to delay or forgo needed medical care, which can put their health at risk. In our study, we wanted to study the work and financial burden among cancer survivors, and also look at disparities related to these outcomes.”

Whitney and colleagues evaluated data from 1,592 cancer survivors who were surveyed in the 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Experiences with Cancer Survivorship Supplement. About half of the participants were aged younger than 65 years (47%), 56% were female, and 88% were non-Hispanic white.

Fourteen percent of the participants were actively receiving treatment at the time of the survey. Nearly half (46%) less than 5 years post-treatment, and 39% had not received treatment for 5 or more years.

Overall, 27% of the participants reported at least one financial difficulty, such as debt, bankruptcy or worry about medical bills.

Thirty-seven percent of participants who worked reported having to modify their work plans by changing to a flexible schedule, switching to a less demanding job, not taking a promotion, retiring early/delaying retirement or taking extended/unpaid time off.

Participants in active treatment were significantly more likely to make work modifications (OR=2.9; 95% CI, 1.7-4.9) and face financial difficulties (OR=3.2; 95% CI, 2.1-5) compared with those who were in post-treatment for 5 or more years.

Participants who were a race/ethnicity other than non-Hispanic white also were more likely to experience work (OR=1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.6) or financial (OR=1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.3) hardships.

Work modifications were more common in females than males (OR=1.5; 95% CI, 1.1-2.2). Financial hardships were more common in patients aged younger than 65 years (OR=2.4; 95% CI, 1.7-3.3) or those who did not have insurance (OR=2.4; 95% CI, 1.3-4.4).

“We found that many cancer survivors, particularly those who are younger or from underserved populations, experience financial or work-related hardship — even when insured and years out from treatment,” Whitney said in a press release. “Addressing these challenges is an important aspect of providing quality cancer care, because they can substantially impact quality of life and health outcomes.”

For more information:

Whitney R. Abstract #238. Scheduled for presentation at: Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium; Oct. 24-25, 2014; Boston.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Jyoti D. Patel

    Jyoti D. Patel

    There are more than 12 million cancer survivors in the United States today. Despite advances in treatment and care, we need to address the financial hardship these survivors face. As we deal with the consequences of treatment and therapy, we need to find creative ways to lessen these hardships.

    • Jyoti D. Patel, MD
    • Thoracic oncologist Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

    Disclosures: Patel reports research funding from Astex Therapeutics, Genentech, Lilly and Novartis.