Many cancer survivors struggle with money problems that can affect their mental health and quality of life, a new study suggests.
Researchers analyzed 2011 data from over 19 million U.S. cancer survivors to determine rates of financial troubles among these patients.
At least 29 percent of the survivors reported at least one financial problem associated with their cancer, its treatment or lasting effects of treatment.
Specifically, 21 percent said they worried about paying large medical bills, 11.5 percent could not pay the cost of medical care visits, 7.6 percent said they had to borrow money or go into debt, 1.5 percent declared bankruptcy, and 8.6 percent reported other money problems.
Cancer survivors facing financial struggles were at higher risk for depression and mental distress, had lower physical and mental health-related quality of life, and were more likely to worry about the return of cancer than those who did not report financial problems.
In addition, the higher the number of financial troubles, the more likely cancer survivors were to have these health problems, the study authors said.
The researchers also determined how different types of financial challenges affected quality of life. For example, declaring bankruptcy was associated with a 20 percent to 25 percent drop in quality of life, and worries about paying large medical bills was linked with a 6 percent to 8 percent decrease in quality of life.
The study by Hrishikesh Kale and Norman Carroll, of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, was published online March 14 in the journal Cancer.
“Our results suggest that policies and practices that minimize cancer patients’ out-of-pocket costs can improve survivors’ health-related quality of life and psychological health,” Carroll said in a journal news release.
“Reducing the financial burden of cancer care requires integrated efforts, and the study findings are useful for survivorship care programs, oncologists, payers, pharmaceutical companies, and patients and their family members,” he added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on cancer survivorship.