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Cancer Treatment Costs Creating 'Financial Toxicity' for Patients

Researchers say half of people treated struggle to pay medical bills

FRIDAY, Dec. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The cost of cancer treatment can cause financial stress that threatens patients' well-being, according to a new study published online Dec. 16 in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Yousuf Zafar, M.D., associate professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues examined data from 1,000 people in the United States who had been diagnosed with colorectal or lung cancer. Of those patients, 889 had finished their treatments and were cancer-free, and 111 had advanced cancer. Nearly half of the patients (482) said they were struggling to pay their medical bills, which was linked with a poorer health-related quality of life.

This "financial toxicity" can impact cancer patients regardless of income, employment, or status of their cancer and other health problems, according to the researchers.

"Patients are at risk for not adhering to their treatments due to cost. They may have to borrow, spend their savings, or cut back on basics like food and clothing, all to help pay for care," Zafar explained in a university news release. "Financial toxicity is potentially harming our patients. Without a doubt, we have our patients' best interests in mind, so if we become more cognizant of that, we're more likely to act on it."

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