A new study shows that many American cancer patients

Are having to do without basic necessities such as food, medication, and even doctor appointments in order to pay increasing out-of-pocket treatment expenses. This finding also includes those patients who have medical insurance.

According to Robert Preidt, writer of “Cancer Patients Struggle as Drug Costs Soar: Study”, researchers looked at 216 cancer patients who sought help from the national nonprofit Health Well Foundation, which helps underinsured patients afford expensive medications. All but one patient had insurance, two-thirds were covered by Medicare and 83 percent had prescription drug coverage. Most of the patients were women (88 percent) with breast cancer (76 percent).

Duke University Medical Center researchers found that the out-of-pocket expenses for cancer patients average $712 a month. This covers costs such as prescription drugs, doctor visit co-pays, lost wages, and travel to medical appointments.

It is these expenses that pose a significant financial problem for 30 percent of cancer patients and a catastrophic problem for 11 percent of cancer patients.

Preidt notes that “the study didn’t examine whether patients suffered worse outcomes because of treatment choices they were forced to make due to financial problems, however, the researchers did find that patients took fewer medications due to costs and were less satisfied with their care when out-of-pocket expenses caused hardship.”

Basically, researchers are looking at the costs of cancer treatment through the eyes of the patient. The term “financial toxicity” has been coined when addressing the concerns of covering such costs of modern-day cancer care.

We used to think about chemotherapy toxicity in terms of bad side effects like vomiting, nerve pain, confusion, and risk of fatal infection. Now we are starting to think in terms of how treatment choices impact real aspects of daily living such as the ability to buy groceries or not,” senior author Dr. Amy Abernethy, an associate professor in Duke’s medical oncology division, said in a Duke news release. To learn more about the financial impact of treatments for cancer patients, click here.

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