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Cancer patient receiving
Credit: Rhoda Baer

Many US cancer survivors may be experiencing financial or work-related hardship, a new survey suggests.

Twenty-seven percent of the nearly 1600 survivors surveyed reported at least one financial problem, such as debt or bankruptcy.

And 37% reported having to modify work plans, such as taking extended time off or delaying retirement.

Women, younger survivors, racial/ethnic minorities, and uninsured survivors were all disproportionally burdened by these challenges.

This research (abstract 238*) was presented in a presscast prior to the 2014 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium, which is scheduled to take place October 24-25 at the Westin Boston Waterfront in Boston.

“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,” said lead study author Robin Whitney, RN, a cancer survivor and PhD student at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis.

“Addressing these challenges is an important aspect of providing quality cancer care, because they can substantially impact quality of life and health outcomes.”

Whitney and her colleagues focused this study on a subset of individuals surveyed in a larger study (2011 Medical Expenditures Panel Survey Experiences with Cancer Survivorship Supplement).

Among the 1592 survivors surveyed, 47% were younger than 65 years of age, 56% were female, 88% were white, and 4% were uninsured. Fourteen percent were in active treatment, 46% were less than 5 years post-treatment, and 39% were 5 years or more post-treatment.

Overall, 27% of those surveyed reported at least one financial difficulty, such as debt, bankruptcy, and worrying about medical bills. Patients in active treatment reported 120% more financial difficulties than survivors who were less than 5 years post-treatment.

Individuals younger than 65 reported 130% more financial difficulties than older survivors. Survivors without insurance had 67% more difficulties than those with insurance. And minorities had 42% more financial difficulties than whites.

In all, 37% of survivors reported making at least one work modification due to their cancer diagnosis, such as changing to a flexible schedule or less demanding job, early or delayed retirement, and extended or unpaid time off.

Women were significantly more likely than men to make at least one work modification. Patients in active treatment made 120% more work modifications than survivors who were less than 5 years post-treatment. And minorities made 57% more modifications than whites.

According to the researchers, these findings are generalizable to the US population and point to the urgent need for screening and support for financial and work challenges across the cancer survivorship trajectory, from diagnosis to long-term survivorship. ht-logo-end

*Information presented differs from that in the abstract.

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