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Study underscores financial hardship experienced by cancer survivors

Four of nine co-authors are ACS researchers

 A CDC-led study with four co-authors from the American Cancer Society finds that 25% of cancer survivors ages 18-64 years have financial hardships, and 34% have psychological hardships. 

Today, more than 16.9 million Americans are cancer survivors, and that number is growing. In a year, cancer survivors ages 18-64 years will incur average out-of-pocket costs of $1,000 in medical care, while people without a cancer history will incur average out-of-pocket costs of $622. 

Cancer survivors were more likely to suffer material hardships (such as having to borrow money, going into debt, filing for bankruptcy, or being unable to pay their medical bills) and psychological hardships (worrying about large medical bills). 

Survivors without insurance coverage have more financial hardships than those with private insurance coverage, but even many cancer survivors with private insurance coverage reported borrowing money, being unable to cover their share of medical care costs, going into debt, or filing for bankruptcy..

The study — Annual Out-of-Pocket Expenditures and Financial Hardship Among Cancer Survivors Aged 18–64 Years - United States, 2011–2016 — was published in the June 7 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACS authors are Jingxuan Zhao, MPH,  Zhiyuan Zheng, PhD,  Xuesong Han, PhD, and Robin Yabroff, PhD, all from our Surveillance and Health Services Research department within Intramural Research.

The number of Americans with a history of cancer is projected to increase in the next decade, and the economic burden associated with living with a cancer diagnosis will likely increase, as well.

The study notes: "The findings in this report might lead to increased awareness in all sectors of the public health and medical community that the rising cost of cancer care is a major barrier to survivors’ well-being. Efforts at the provider, practice, employer, payer, state, and federal levels are needed to develop and implement evidence-based and sustainable interventions (e.g., including systematic screening for financial hardship at cancer diagnosis and throughout the cancer care trajectory, integrating discussions about the potential for adverse financial consequences of treatments in shared treatment decision-making, and linking patients and survivors to available resources) to minimize financial hardship for cancer survivors."

Read the full study here.

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