Financial Problems Linked to Worse Cancer Survival

Financial Problems Linked to Worse Cancer Survival

In the United States, people receiving breast cancer treatment had higher mortality risk when they had financial problems versus when they didn’t.
Apr 29, 2022.
 

In the United States, people receiving breast cancer treatment had higher mortality risk when they had financial problems versus when they didn’t have financial problems, according to a study. It didn’t really matter if the people had health insurance coverage or not.

The research was published online on April 20, 2022, by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Read the abstract of “Association of Medical Financial Hardship and Mortality Among Cancer Survivors in the United States.”

 

Paying for care

The cost of breast cancer treatment and follow-up care can be a financial strain for many people and their families, even if they have health insurance. Besides the cost of the treatment itself, you may be facing extra expenses for travel to and from a treatment center and child care while you’re having treatment. You also may be earning a lower income if you have to take time off from work.

This is especially true for people diagnosed with metastatic disease because they receive treatment for the rest of their lives.

Earlier studies have found that people receiving breast cancer treatment are more likely to:

  • have financial difficulties than people with no history of cancer

  • have to delay treatment or not have recommended care because of financial difficulties

Still, no previous studies had looked at how financial issues can affect health outcomes.

 

About the study

For this study, the researchers used information from the 1997-2014 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this annual survey of U.S. households collects information about a broad range of health topics.

The researchers looked at information from more than 25,000 people who had received treatment for cancer:

  • 14,917 were ages 18 to 64

  • 10,391 were ages 65 to 79

The researchers wanted to see if the two age groups had differences in:

  • employment status

  • the likelihood of having other medical conditions

  • Medicare eligibility

About 18% of the people ages 18 to 64 and about 23.5% of the people ages 65 to 79 received breast cancer treatment.

The analysis showed that in the 12 months before completing the survey, younger people were more likely to have financial hardship than older people:

  • 29.6% of people ages 18 to 64 reported financial hardship

  • 11% of people ages 65 to 79 reported financial hardship

Compared with people who didn’t report financial hardship, people who said they faced financial hardship were more likely to be:

  • younger

  • female

  • racial and ethnic minorities

  • unmarried

People with financial hardship also were more likely to:

  • have more health problems

  • have either dropped out of high school or not gone to college

Among the younger group, people with financial problems were about half as likely to have private health insurance and about nine times more likely to be uninsured than people without financial problems.

During the study period:

  • 14.8% of people ages 18 to 64 died

  • 32.8% of people ages 65 to 79 died

People with financial problems were more likely to die than people without financial problems:

  • People ages 18 to 64 with financial problems had a 17% higher mortality risk than people without financial problems.

  • People ages 65 to 79 with financial problems had a 14% higher mortality risk than people without financial problems.

When the researchers adjusted for health insurance coverage, the link between financial problems and higher mortality risk went down a bit — to 9% — for the younger group of people.

When the researchers adjusted for supplemental Medicare coverage, it didn’t affect the higher mortality risk in the older group of people.

“Cancer survivors frequently experience medical financial hardship; however, little research has examined its associations with long-term health consequences,” lead author Robin Yabroff, PhD, scientific vice president, health services research at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement. “Our findings show the need to address financial hardship to ensure that cancer survivors do not delay or forgo necessary care because they cannot afford it.”

 

What this means for you

If the thought of paying for breast cancer treatment and follow-up care seems overwhelming, there are resources available to help you — including resources at Breastcancer.org. It’s important to not panic and to not skip any treatments or doctor’s visits.

Many doctors keep lists of organizations that offer financial assistance for breast cancer medicines and care, as well as local organizations that offer financial assistance for practical needs such as transportation, food, and child care. Additionally, many pharmaceutical companies have set up special funds to help people pay for the cost of their medicines.

Learn more about Covering the Costs of Your Breast Cancer Care.

Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor

— Last updated on July 14, 2022, 4:45 PM

Reviewed by 1 medical adviser
 
Brian Wojciechowski, MD
Crozer Health System, Philadelphia area, PA
Learn more about our advisory board
Share your feedback
Help us learn how we can improve our research news coverage.