Financial burden among US households affected by cancer at the end of life


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Abstract

Objective:Economic burden on families coping with end-stage cancer remains poorly understood. Advanced malignancy threatens financial stability of families, and interventions are needed to buffer them from impoverishment. This study examined the relationship between subjective and objective assessments of financial burden on families (financial strain and stress, respectively) and identified potentially modifiable factors to inform intervention efforts.Methods:Using national survey data, we analyzed responses from households that had recently experienced a cancer death; 176 of households provided information on financial strain, and 158 provided data on financial stress. In addition to self-reported appraisals of financial burden, measures assessed elements of the cancer care experience, treatment, symptom burden, work impact, insurance coverage, and demographics.Results:Despite being well insured, approximately a quarter of respondents reported that the cost of care was amajorfinancial burden, and a third usedall or mostof their savings. Financial strain and stress were moderately positively correlated (r= 0.46,p< 0.01). Higher financial stress scores were negatively correlated with decedent's age at death (r= −0.34,p< 0.01), and minority respondents (‘other’ race) reported much higher financial stress (M= 4.7;SD= 3.2) than White (M= 0.8;SD= 1.4) or Black (M= 1.6;SD= 2.2) respondents (p< 0.001). Financial burden was also associated with no or limited insurance coverage, changes in employment, severe pain and nausea, and provider interactions during the cancer care experience (e.g., whether the MD paid attention to non-medical factors or having unanswered questions about medications) (p< 0.05 for all).Conclusions:The cancer care experience, symptoms, and work impact were associated with financial burden and have important implications for research and practice.

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