One quarter of breast cancer survivors report financial distress from treatment

New research led by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center reflects the financial toll breast cancer can have on survivors, particularly for Latinas and Blacks.

The study included 1,502 women from Detroit and Los Angeles with initial diagnoses of early stage breast cancer. The women were surveyed twice, at nine months after diagnosis and again about four years later. The survey asked patients if they felt their financial situation had declined since they had been diagnosed, and whether that had presented long-term challenges or impacted their medical care (e.g. skipping medication, a mammogram or other medical appointments).  

Of those surveyed, 25 percent reported that they were worse off financially; 12 percent still had medical debt from their treatment. The researchers also noted a racial disparity. Spanish-speaking Latinas were most likely to be impacted financially. English-speaking Latinas and Blacks reported debt more frequently.

In a press release from the University of Michigan Health System, study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., said: 

“These patients are particularly vulnerable to financial distress. … We need to ensure appropriate communication between patients and their doctors regarding the financial implications of a cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions to help reduce this long-term burden.”

The study was published online this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.