Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Quality Care Symposium: Few Women Discuss Financial Aspect of Cancer Care With Physicians

By: Sarah Campen, PharmD
Posted: Monday, October 1, 2018

Although many women with breast cancer report significant financial burden related to their care and prefer to discuss costs before beginning treatment, the majority are not having conversations about the cost of care with their oncology team. These are the findings of a study presented at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Quality Care Symposium in Phoenix (Abstract 207).

“In an era of rising cancer treatment costs, we don’t routinely discuss the financial implications of cancer care with women embarking on treatment,” stated lead author Rachel Adams Greenup, MD, MPH, of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, in an ASCO press release. “As women consider various cancer treatment options, information about costs could help them make more informed decisions about which therapies are best for them.”

In the study, 607 women with stage 0 to III breast cancer completed an 88-question electronic survey regarding their experiences with breast cancer treatment costs and their preferences for cost transparency. The majority had private (70%) insurance or Medicare (25%) and reported an annual household income of at least $74,000. Median out-of-pocket costs were $3,500, and 15.5% of women reported “significant to catastrophic” financial burden.

The majority of patients (79%) reported preferring cost transparency prior to beginning treatment; however, most participants (78%) never discussed costs with their cancer team. Women who discussed cost of treatment were more likely to have stage II or III disease, were less likely to be depressed, and had less insurance coverage than those who did not. Older age, increasing household income, and better insurance coverage were associated with a decreased risk of financial harm.

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