Money Worries Keep Cancer Survivors From Getting Care

Many cancer survivors skipped some kind of health care because of costs, a new study finds.

money stethoscope i

Even a simple doctor's visit may be too costly for some cancer survivors. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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money stethoscope

Even a simple doctor's visit may be too costly for some cancer survivors.


Surveys of thousands of patients showed that 18 percent of cancer survivors were forgoing care ranging from dental and mental health care to filling prescriptions.

Researchers estimate as many as 2 million U.S. cancer survivors skipped necessary care during a three-year study period.

"The large number is somewhat surprising because we know that cancer survivors are really vigilant about their health and it’s probably not something that they forgo lightly," Kathryn Weaver, a clinical psychologist at Wake Forest University Health Sciences who led the study, tells Shots. There are about 12 million cancer suvivors in the U.S.

Weaver’s research found that survivors older than 65 were less likely to skip care. Medicare coverage probably helped. The results were just published online by the medical journal Cancer.

Hispanics and blacks were more likely to forgo care than whites.

When researchers looked at how cancer diagnosis affected subsequent care, they found survivors of cervical cancer were the more likely to skip care. People who survived breast and prostate cancer were the least likely to do so.

"Cancer survivors and their physicians need to bring financial considerations into their conversation about health care," Weaver says. Doctors "may be able to provide referrals to help pay for the cost of care or suggest less expensive forms of treatment.”

Weaver says that many cancer patients face substantial financial challenges after their treatments. Some aren’t able to return to their old jobs, replace full-time jobs with part time jobs or take jobs that have less health benefits.



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