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Cancer Patients Often Shy Away From Talking About Costs
Date:6/5/2013

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Although most cancer patients want to talk about the price tag of cancer treatment, they don't actually do it, a new study has found. Many patients are afraid the discussion could compromise the quality of their care.

Those who do bring up their financial concerns, however, frequently find that the discussion ends up reducing their costs, the research revealed.

The findings, from a survey of about 300 insured patients treated at Duke Health and affiliated clinics in rural North Carolina, suggest that physicians can help bridge the communication gap and reduce patients' level of stress about the financial impact of cancer -- if they're willing to bring up the topic of money. And if physicians don't bring up the topic, the study suggests that patients should.

Coping with financial issues can make dealing with a difficult disease even more challenging and may influence a patient's decisions, said study lead author Dr. Yousuf Zafar, an assistant professor at the Duke Cancer Institute. "Even my patients with insurance were asking for less expensive medications and less frequent visits [since they couldn't afford the travel costs]. There's this undercurrent of expenses that patients are facing that often goes unseen."

The study found that although almost 60 percent of the participants had private insurance, the average out-of-pocket cost for patients was nearly $600 a month.

Although more than half the participants said they wanted to talk about cost with their physicians, only 19 percent had actually done so. Yet 57 percent of those who did broach the subject of financial problems felt that having the discussion helped decrease costs. More than 50 percent of the participants wanted their doctors to consider cost before recommending treatment. Those with the most "financial distress" were the most willing to discuss costs. '/>"/>

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