Many cancer survivors forgo medical care due to costs

Cancer survivors forgo needed care because of concerns over medical cost, according to a study conducted by researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

For the study, led by Kathryn Weaver, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Division of Public Health Sciences, investigators analyzed information from the annual U.S. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an in-person, nationwide survey of 30,000 to 40,000 households in the civilian, noninstitutionalized population that is used to track trends in illness and disability in the United States.  Included in the study were data from 6,602 adult cancer survivors and 104,364 individuals with no history of cancer.

The analysis revealed that overall, 18% of U.S. cancer survivors, which represents more than 2 million individuals, did not get one or more needed medical services because of financial concerns. Investigators reported that the prevalence of forgoing care in the past year due to concerns about cost was 7.8% for medical care, 9.9% for prescription medications, 11.3% for dental care, and 2.7 % for mental health care. In addition, cancer survivors > 65 years old were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to delay or forgo all types of medical care than were their same-age peers without a history of cancer.

“Although the large number of survivors going without care was somewhat surprising, it has long been recognized that cancer can have a negative impact on the financial health of survivors,” said Dr. Weaver. “This is important because cancer survivors have many medical needs that persist  for years after their diagnosis and treatment. The implications of this financial stress for their ongoing medical care are just beginning to be recognized.”

The findings were published in Cancer (2010 Jun 14. [Epub ahead of print]).

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