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Financial Worries Add to Cancer Patients' Burden
Date:6/6/2012

By E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- A small study gives a snapshot into the financial anxieties that plague many patients with advanced cancer and their spouses, even as they struggle against the disease itself.

Four of every five such American patients and their spouses-caregivers in the study said they had concerns about meeting medical costs and suffered "financial stress." Worries about paying medical costs also were tied to lower mental and physical health, the study found.

"Across the board, the longer they were in treatment or reaching the end of life, there were [financial] concerns. There were concerns whether it came to their own well-being or their families' well-being," said study lead author Fay Hlubocky, a clinical psychologist and ethicist at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

She reported the findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in Chicago.

The study involved 52 patients with advanced cancers, all of whom were enrolled in clinical trials, and their spouses. While patients in clinical trials are a slightly different group than that seen in the general population (because some expenses of treatment may be paid for), Hlubocky said the numbers from her study "are borne out in the literature generally" for patients battling cancer outside of such trials.

Patients ranged in age from 28 to 78, with a median age of 61. All were married, two-thirds had more than a high school education, and just over half made less than $65,000 a year. Forty-five percent of the patients were employed, as were two-thirds of spouses-caregivers. Each patient and their spouse were asked about a wide range of financial concerns, and they also took part in standard tests assessing depression, anxiety, quality of life and mental/physical health.

The researchers found that at the beginning of the
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