TO BE OR NOT TO BE is the ultimate question when you have cancer. A new study reveals that 18 percent of U.S. cancer survivors, or more than two million persons, did not get needed medical services because they didn't have the money to pay for them.
COSTS POSE THREAT TO CANCERN SURVIVAL
Cost concerns have posed a threat to cancer survivorship for some time, reports Bloomberg Businessweek, particularly with the advent of new, life-prolonging treatments. This study raises troubling conerns about the long-term survival and quality of life.
"We've known for a long time that cancer can have a negative impact on the financial health of survivors," explains the study lead author Kathryn E. Weaver at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. "But we didn't know what implications this financial stress might have for their ongoing medical care, even long after their diagnosis."
YEARS AFTER DIAGNOSIS
It's a concern because it is recognized that cancer survivors have numerous medical needs that persist for years after their diagnosis and treatment, Weaver emphasized.
Researchers used data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, from 2003 to 2006. Finds are based on a sample of 6,602 adult cancer survivors, 9 years after diagnosis, and 104,364 people with no history of cancer.
MILLIONS GO WITHOUT MEDICAL CARE
The nearly 18 percent of cancer survivors, an estimated 2 million-plus Americans, went without one or more medical services because of financial worries. The younger survivors, those under age 65, were one-and-a-half to two times more likely to forgo or delay medical services, according to the study.
Cancer survivors said the prevalence of foregoing care in the past year due to a lack of money was: 7.8 percent for medical care, 9.9 percent for prescription medications, 11.3 percent for dental care and 2.7 percent of mental health care.
FOLLOW-UP CARE TOO COSTLY
One of the chief problems involved lack of insurance, particularly for follow-up care.
Jeanie M. Barnett, with CancerCare, a New York City-based nonprofit support group for cancer patients, provides co-payment assistance for certain cancer medications.
"Cancer is a very expensive disease and is it's becoming more and more expensive," Barnett told Businessweek. "The costs of the drug are going up. So, too, is the proposition that the patient pays out of pocket."
The Journal of the American Medical Assn. recently reported that the direct costs of cancer has swollen from $27 billion in 1990 to more than $90 billion in 2008.
It's been found by other studies that the uninsured account for some 4 percent of newly diagnosed cancer cases, and about 4 percent of cancer deaths, says Time, adding that the new study suggests that far more than the uninsured are struggling with medical bills. Those survivors with insurance may still have difficulty paying for copays, deductibles and care not covered by their plan.
The study was published online June 14 in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society.
by Sharon McEachern