Two studies published in December 2015 using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey highlight the financial hardships and economic burden associated with cancer in the United States. The first study led by Robin Yabroff (formerly of HDRP) and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looks at material financial hardship – measured by borrowing money/going into debt, filing for bankruptcy, being unable to cover costs of medical care, or making other financial sacrifices due to cancer – and found that hardship was more common among cancer survivors that were younger (18-64 years of age). Psychological financial hardship (e.g. worrying about paying bills) was also more common among this group. The second study led by Zhiyuan Zheng and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute describes the increased economic burden faced by colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer survivors. This study shows that the excess economic burden differs by cancer site and age, though across the board, burden is higher for cancer survivors than for those without a cancer history.
With an aging population and increasing medical costs, these studies shed some light on economic issues that cancer survivors face after treatment. Moreover, differences in cancer types or age, race/ethnicity, insurance status, SES can have important implications. As we continue to study these critical issues, we want to hear your thoughts on approaches or interventions that would help to reduce financial hardships and economic burden among cancer survivors. How can we best begin to tackle these challenges?