-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- As cancer patients'
survival times increase, so do their bankruptcy rates.
That's the finding of a new study by researchers who compared
U.S. bankruptcy court records to cancer registry data from nearly
232,000 adult cancer survivors in western Washington over 14 years.
The investigators reported that, on average, bankruptcy rates
quadrupled within five years of cancer diagnosis.
Compared to the general population, bankruptcy rates among
cancer survivors were nearly twice as high one year after
diagnosis, and the median time to bankruptcy was 2.5 years after
"The risk of bankruptcy for cancer patients is not well known, and previous studies have relied on individual self-reports about medically related reasons for bankruptcy filing," study leader Dr. Scott Ramsey, a health care economist and internist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said in a center news release. "By linking two irrefutable government records of cancer and bankruptcy, we are able to determine how financial insolvency risk varies by cancer type, treatment and other factors."
The risk of bankruptcy was highest among patients with cancer of
the lung, thyroid and leukemia/lymphoma. People over 65 -- who are
typically covered by Medicare -- have a much lower risk of
bankruptcy than their younger counterparts. The researchers also
noted that the number of U.S. cancer patients declaring bankruptcy
has increased significantly since the recent economic downturn
"Patients diagnosed with cancer may face significant financial stress due to income loss and out-of-pocket costs associated with their treatment," Ramsey said in the news release.
The study was presented this week at the American Society of
Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago. Because this study
was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should
be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
The American Society of Clinical Oncology has more about the
costs of cancer care.
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