Financial Hardship Common Among Colon Cancer Patients

Even among those who have health insurance, financial hardship affects nearly 40 percent

TUESDAY, March 13 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 40 percent of patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer experience financial hardship, even if they have health insurance coverage, according to research published online March 12 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Veena Shankaran, M.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a study involving 555 patients with stage III colon cancer, during or following adjuvant chemotherapy, who were identified using data from a population-based cancer registry. In an effort to identify those who experienced financial hardship as a direct result of their illness, participants completed a survey detailing their treatment-related costs, accrued debt, whether they were forced to sell assets or borrow money, or if they had experienced a decline in income.

The researchers found that nearly all of the 51.2 percent of patients who responded were insured during their colon cancer treatment. Overall, 38 percent reported some type of financial hardship as a consequence of their cancer treatment. Younger people and those with lower annual household incomes were more likely to report financial hardship. The factors most closely associated with treatment non-adherence were younger age, lower income, and unemployment or disability (which usually occurred following diagnosis).

"A significant proportion of patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer may experience financial hardship, despite having health insurance coverage. Interventions to help at-risk patients early on during therapy may prevent long-term financial adverse effects," the authors write.

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