Since treatment for early stage breast cancer is becoming more limited and particular, it is starting to take a great financial toll on a lot of patients.
Researchers from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center are working on a new study to look at the financial effects of cancer treatment on patients. Among other things, the team is considering whether or not doctors are completely addressing patient issues about the financial impacts of their diagnosis and treatment.
Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., deputy chair and professor of radiation oncology at Michigan Medicine, is the lead author of the study. She says it’s great that the medical community has made big progress in treating breast cancer, but they also need to focus on dealing with the financial issues that a lot of patients experience.
She and her colleagues interviewed around 2,500 early onset breast cancer patients as well as 845 surgeons and oncologists. They found that nearly 38% of women were fairly worried about their ability to pay for their treatments. Some also experienced intense devastation.
Generally, 14% of these patients admitted that they lose more than 10% of their household income because they miss work due to treatment, and around 17% spent more than 10% of their income on out-of-pocket expenses.
The financial issue was diverse, with black and Latina women suffering more than other participants. Issues included debt, loss of homes and utilities, and an inability to pay bills and get adequate groceries.
Among the doctors who were surveyed, many said that they were concerned and talked to their patients about the financial problems that they are experiencing. 43% of radiation oncologists and 50% of medical oncologists said that some often talk about it with their patients, and only 16% of surgeons did.
In the number of patients concerned about their medical expenses, 73% reported that their doctor did not help.
According to the research team, the results definitely show a great need to improve the communication between doctors and patients in regards to their financial issues. As doctors, their duty is to help cure their patients, and discussing their financial woes is a big part of managing overall wellness.