Priced Out of the Post-Cancer Care Market

examAfter successful breast cancer treatment, many women are prescribed hormone therapy to reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence. This long-term medication cost can be an adherence barrier for some women and this “cost problem” appears to affect more women than previously thought.

New research – based on 8,700 women with a history of breast cancer and a current prescription for hormone therapy – uncovered the alarming fact that only 63.2% of patients prescribed adjuvant endocrine therapy (such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors) maintain adherence in the long run. Meanwhile, 36.8% of women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers failed to stick with their hormone therapy; a treatment that is designed to lower production of the hormone estrogen (estrogen can contribute to tumor growth).

The high cost of the medications is thought to account for the low level of adherence, through a combination of poverty and high out-of-pocket medication costs for these hormone medications. When the researchers divided the women in this study into groupings of different out-of-pocket costs, a trend became evident. Women with average out-of-pocket costs below $10 per month were much more likely to be adherent than women whose monthly part of the cost exceeded that amount.

Controlling patient cost in the future has the potential to minimize breast cancer recurrence in previously treated women.


Farias AJ, Du XL. Association between out-of-pocket costs, race/ethnicity, and adjuvant endrocrine therapy adherence among Medicare patients with breast cancer. J Clin Oncol DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2016.68.2807.

Rapaport L. Costs keep women from taking drugs to prevent cancer’s return. Health News Reuters November 1, 2016.

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