In June 2018, The American Journal of Medicine published an alarming study called “Death or Debt? National Estimates of Financial Toxicity in Persons with Newly-Diagnosed Cancer.” According to the study, slightly over 42% of cancer patients drain the entirety of their life’s savings within two years of being diagnosed with the disease.
To conduct the study, the team of researchers tracked changes in patients’ net worth two and four years after diagnosis, controlling for various clinical and demographic-related variables, as well as mortality rates, economic factors, and characteristics specific to different types of cancers. They analyzed data between 1998 and 2014 gathered from a Health and Retirement Study sponsored by the Social Security Administration and the National Institute on Aging that represented individuals who were 50 and above and newly diagnosed with various iterations of the disease, excluding minor skin cancers. On average, patients lost $92,098.
About the study, researchers said, “As large financial burdens have been found to adversely affect access to care and outcomes among cancer patients, the active development of approaches to mitigate these effects among already vulnerable groups remains of key importance.”
Between this study and the World Health Organization deeming cancer drugs too expensive, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the world of medical oncology may not be putting its patients first. If that’s the case, it needs a major rehashing: patients should not be draining their banks just to survive. It is unacceptable for cancer patients, who are already suffering immeasurably, to have their pain and discomfort compounded financially. More emphasis needs to be placed on detecting cancer early, not only to improve one’s chance of survival, but to also help better their quality of life as they begin their path back to better health.