Efforts needed to address 'financial toxicity' of cancer treatment


Life, Health

Many patients face financial devastation particularly as they progress into survivorship.

Efforts must now turn to confront the financial devastation that many patients face, particularly as they progress into survivorship. (Photo: AFP

Individuals who are diagnosed with cancer often worry about the financial burdens of treatment, in addition to facing health-related concerns.

A new study indicates that many patients feel that such 'financial toxicity' is not adequately addressed by their doctors and other clinicians.

There is growing awareness that cancer diagnosis and treatment can create financial difficulties even for patients with health insurance, but it is unclear whether patients today are being helped in this by their doctors or staff.

To investigate, Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her colleagues surveyed patients with early-stage breast cancer and their physicians: 2502 patients, 370 surgeons, 306 medical oncologists, and 169 radiation oncologists.

Half of the responding medical oncologists reported that someone in their practice often or always discusses financial burden with patients, as did 15.6 percent of surgeons and 43.2 percent of radiation oncologists.

The survey also revealed that many patients desired to talk to providers about the financial impact of cancer: 15.2 percent of whites, 31.1 percent of blacks, 30.3 percent of Latinas, and 25.4 percent of Asians.

Dr. Jagsi said, "We found that even though many doctors reported that they routinely make services available to their patients to help with financial concerns, many patients still reported unmet needs."

The investigators noted that although advances in detection and treatment have transformed how breast cancer is perceived and managed, this study reveals an important aspect that cannot be overlooked or addressed as an afterthought.

"Efforts must now turn to confront the financial devastation that many patients face, particularly as they progress into survivorship," said Dr. Jagsi.

She added, "To cure a patient's disease at the cost of financial ruin falls short of the physician's duty to serve and failure to recognize and mitigate a patient's financial distress is no longer acceptable."

The full findings are present in the journal- Cancer.