Finances: Another Cancer Side Effect

1752.jpgIt’s no secret that a cancer diagnosis can wreak havoc on a family’s financial resources. In fact, someone with cancer is far more likely – 2.5 times more likely to be exact – than another person from the general population to file for bankruptcy. But just how serious are the financial challenges in the midst of a health crisis? Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center took a look at cancer patients and their long-term health, which uncovered an unfortunate link between money and survival.

Approximately 3,800 people with cancer who had filed for bankruptcy (after diagnosis) and 3,800 people with cancer who had not filed for bankruptcy were tracked in terms of treatment and outcomes. The severe financial distress resulting in bankruptcy was found to be a risk factor for shorter survival times. Although there is variation, based on the type of cancer a person has, about 3% of cancer patients end up bankrupt. These patients, in turn, are nearly 80% more likely to die than non-bankrupt cancer patients.

Other research shows that quality of life also takes a hit from the financial strain of cancer treatment – as evidenced by suffering more pain and worse symptoms than other patients who have a nest egg to rely on. In other words, pain went up as the money went down.

Financial toxicity must be considered another variation of the already long list of side effects from cancer treatment.


Ramsey SD, Bansal A, Fedorenko CR, et al. Financial insolvency as a risk factor for early mortality among patients with cancer. J Clin Oncol 2016;34(9):980-6.

Lathan CS, Cronin A, Tucker-Seeley R, et al. Association of financial strain with symptom burden and quality of life for patients with lung or colorectal cancer. J Clin Oncol 2016 Feb 29. pii: JCO632232. [Epub ahead of print]

Stephen C. Vogt, Pharm.D.
President and CEO
BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy


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