1 in 5 people with cancer report financial difficulties

More than 20% of people with cancer in the Netherlands report financial difficulties as a result of their cancer care. If they are unemployed, this goes up to over 25%, as found in a paper published today in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

Dr Alison Pearce, the lead author on the study explains “People often think about the extra costs of cancer care putting financial strain on patients and their families. We were interested in whether having difficulties maintaining a job during cancer treatment might also impact people’s financial worries.”

Financial difficulties were also more common for men, young people, people who weren’t married, and people who had lower education or socioeconomic status. For many people in these groups, financial reserves and flexibility might be limited. For example, young people may not have had time to save money for situations like this, or people working casual jobs might have lower income as well as less access to sick leave.

Professor Dr Lonneke van de Poll-Franse from the PROFILES registry that provided the data: “Although in the Netherlands, like Australia, we have a good social security system to pay for cancer treatment and disability, people still experience financial difficulties. More attention should be paid to the potential origins of this problem, for example maintaining employment, getting a mortgage or insurance or missing out on work-related financial bonusses.”

Some types of cancer were more likely to result in financial difficulties. People who had blood cancer or colorectal cancer were more likely to feel stress due to the costs of cancer, while people with a type of skin cancer called Basal Cell Carcinoma were less likely to experience financial stress.  This may reflect the duration and complexity of treatment for different cancers.

Just like the physical side effects of treatment reduce after stopping treatment, the chances of financial difficulties also reduced over time.

Dr Pearce says “This is probably related to people going back to work. But, we know financial difficulties reduce quality of life. So, it would be better if we could help people to avoid or minimise financial problems, rather than just waiting for them to go away.”

Introducing return to work programs for cancer survivors might be one way to prevent or reduce financial difficulties among cancer survivors. Research suggest that multidisciplinary teams involving physical therapy, psychological support and workplace specific training have been effective in helping people return to work.

Link to paper: A Pearce, B Tomalin, B Kaambwa, N Horevoorts, S Duijts, F Mols, L van de Poll-Franse, B Koczwara. Financial toxicity is more than costs of care: The relationship between employment and financial toxicity in long-term cancer survivors. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. Published online 24th October 2018.

About the authors: This research was conducted by a collaborative group, with researchers from the University of Technology Sydney, Flinders University, the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation, the University Medical Center Groningen, and Tilburg University.

About PROFILES: PROFILES (Patient Reported Outcomes Following Initial treatment and Long-term Evaluation of Survivorship) is a registry for the study of the physical and psychosocial impact of cancer and its treatment from a dynamic, growing population-based cohort of both short and long-term cancer survivors. Researchers from the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation and Tilburg University in Tilburg, The Netherlands, work together with medical specialists from national hospitals in order to setup different PROFILES studies, collect the necessary data, and present the results in scientific journals and (inter)national conferences.

For more information contact:

Alison Pearce: Alison.pearce@chere.uts.edu.au