Over Percent Cancer Survivors in US Face Financial hardship.
The number of cancer survivors in the United States is rapidly increasing. As of now, there are around 16.9 million people struggling with cancer in the country. New research suggests that cancer treatment often comes with a huge financial burden.
The information, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, highlights cancer care expenses in the US.
The report reveals that around one-fourth of the cancer survivors in the country have admitted that they had problems paying medical bills. About one-third of the patients also said they were worried about the medical expenses.
On an average, a cancer survivor significantly has higher annual out-of-pocket spending as compared to the people who never had cancer, according to the report.
The report titled “Annual Out-of-Pocket Expenditures and Financial Hardship Among Cancer Survivors Aged 18–64 Years”, revealed that cancer survivors have an estimated annual out-of-pocket spending of about $1,000 as compared to the $622 for a person who has never had cancer.
The report also stated that more than 25 percent of the cancer survivors struggled with material hardships associated with the disease. The participants of the survey admitted that they had to borrow money, file for bankruptcy or go into debt for covering the medical expenses.
Over 34 percent of the survivors also admitted that they struggled with psychological financial hardships as they were worried about paying medical bills.
For the report, researchers from the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and CDC collected data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The data was based on self-reported information collected through a questionnaire.
The research report was made by analyzing the data of cancer survivors between the age group of 18 and 64. It focused on the financial hardships faced by the patients and their annual out-of-pocket expenditures of five years from 2011 to 2016.
Donatus Ekwueme, the first author of the report and a senior health economist at the CDC in Atlanta, said the number of cancer survivors in the US “is projected to increase in the next decade”. According to him, the financial hardships associated with cancer diagnosis may also increase in the coming years.
“The population of cancer survivors is growing and many struggles to pay for costs of medical care. As a result, some survivors are worried about paying and have problems paying for medical care, and some are even forced to file for bankruptcy,” Ekwueme said.
Several other researchers, who were not involved in the report but were part of several studies related to health care expenses, have also said the cancer care costs play an important role in the lives of cancer survivors.
Dr. Rachel Adams Greenup, a breast cancer surgeon, said the prime reason for cancer survivors to struggle with financial hardships is that they have to actively seek health care even after surviving the disease. According to the surgeon, cancer patients can avoid any kind of financial hardships by discussing about the expenses prior to starting the treatment.
In a similar vein, Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington, DC, said, “The best way to deal with cancer and cancer costs is to prevent it from occurring in the first place or catching the disease early so that it’s in an earlier stage of diagnosis and therefore the treatment is easier and less costly.”
Survivors of this chronic illness can also check out the guidance on reduced the out-of-pocket spending released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2009. It focuses on the roles played by doctors in addressing and discussing the out-of-pocket health care expenses of this disease with their patients.
However, the researchers of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report have revealed that their analyses has its own limitations. It is mainly because the report focussed only on the self-reported details. It did not include information on the type of treatment the survivors received and the stage of cancer.