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Cancer Patients May Face Higher Bankruptcy Odds
Date:5/15/2013

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- People diagnosed with cancer are almost three times more likely to declare bankruptcy than are those without the disease, a large new study suggests.

And younger people with cancer have up to five times higher bankruptcy rates compared to older patients with the disease, the researchers found.

Of almost 200,000 people with cancer in the study based in Washington state, about 2 percent filed for bankruptcy protection after being diagnosed. Of those who were not diagnosed with cancer, 1 percent filed.

Although the risk of bankruptcy for those with cancer is still relatively low, researchers said it is significant.

"Bankruptcy is such an extreme measure of financial distress, and we didn't include the other forms of financial difficulties people encounter," said Catherine Fedorenko, a study co-author and technical project coordinator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.

Whether people suffer substantial debt or have to go so far as to declare bankruptcy, their financial problems are likely to be stressful, said Karma Kreizenbeck, a study co-author and project director at the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research.

"This paper shows how medical debt associated with a cancer diagnosis could be more likely to lead to a bankruptcy," Kreizenbeck said. "But it could also mean people have to take second jobs, end up with lower credit scores or have to make other decisions."

Celeste Smith, 63, was diagnosed five years ago with breast cancer. A Seattle realtor who was just starting to do well in a new job, she found she had to stop working when she was faced with months of radiation and chemotherapy. Despite the fact that she had health insurance, her mortgage and car payment bills began to mount. "It's a horrible circle trying to get over cancer and deal with all the financia
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