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Cost-Conscious Cancer Survivors Skip Care
Date:6/14/2010

A March 17 commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, titled "Cancer's Next Frontier -- Addressing High and Increasing Costs," reported that the direct costs of cancer had swelled from $27 billion in 1990 to more than $90 billion in 2008.

The new study attempts to tease out the prevalence of forgoing medical care due to financial concerns.

"We've known for a long time that cancer can have a negative impact on the financial health of survivors," Weaver explained, "but we didn't know what implications this financial stress might have for their ongoing medical care, even long after their diagnosis."

To explore that issue, the researchers used data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey from 2003 to 2006. The findings are based on a sample of 6,602 adult cancer survivors and 104,364 people without a cancer diagnosis.

Among cancer survivors, the prevalence of forgoing care in the past year due to cost concerns was 7.8 percent for medical care, 9.9 percent for prescription medications, 11.3 percent for dental care and 2.7 percent for mental health care.

Nearly 18 percent of cancer survivors -- an estimated 2 million Americans -- went without one or more medical services because of financial concerns. Younger survivors, under age 65, were one-and-a-half to two times more likely to forgo or delay medical services, the study revealed.

And black and Hispanic cancer survivors were more likely to forgo prescription drugs and dental care than white survivors, the study found.

What procedures or treatments are cancer survivors skipping? The data wasn't that specific, Weaver explained, "so it's hard to judge: Was it a routine test? Was it for cardiovascular problems? Or was it a test that might pick up a cancer recurrence?"

Nevertheless, the study does raise questions about the health of cancer survivors. "Certainly that's going to impact your quality of life regard
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