Financial Burdens of Cancer

By: Ramanjot Singh ’19

Money.jpg

Figure 1. Financial burdens are crushing.

It is well known that cancer is one of the major cause of death around the world. However, the indirect effects of cancer are overlooked by healthcare professionals. More specifically, the decrease in productivity, emotional costs, and financial burdens brought by cancer are often neglected. Recognizing this, Dr. Van Hoang from the Hanoi University of Public Health wanted to study the financial burdens caused by cancer.

Dr. Hoang designed a longitudinal study which interviewed people at different times after their initial diagnosis. The patients were interviewed right after their diagnosis, three months following it, and then again at twelve months. The interviews recorded their out-of-pocket payments (OOP), catastrophic expenditure (spending exceeding a certain percent of their household income), and impoverishment (taking on poverty). Three national cancer centers in Vietnam were chosen, which together recruited 1,916 cancer patients.

The study found that 39% of patients were impoverished by payments for the cancer treatment and 82% of patients incurred catastrophic expenditures. The chances of being impoverished were higher with older individuals and individuals with low incomes. Additionally, patients who were treated surgically had lower chances of impoverishment –this may be due to surgery being a one-time expense compared to other methods of treatment.

Thus, this study found that many Vietnamese households with cancer patients suffered catastrophically in their finances. Some of the limitations of this study were that only hospitalized cancer patients were studied. There was also a low response rate that may have resulted in skewed data, with people exaggerating their expenses and underreporting their household incomes. However, their results are likely valid as they aligned with other studies done within the region, such as Cambodia and Laos. The findings emphasize the need for a better insurance or financial nets for households throughout the world dealing with cancer as well as other ailments.

 

References:

  1. Hoang, Van Minh, et al. Household financial burden and poverty impacts of cancer treatment in Vietnam. Biomed Research International, 1-8 (2017). doi:10.1155/2017/9350147.
  2. Image retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/cash-money-finances-burden-debt-32553/
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