New Tool Measures Expense Stress of Cancer patients?

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A recent article in the journal Cancer reported on a new tool that measures a patient’s risk for, and ability to tolerate , the financial stress associated with cancer treatment.  They previously found that many patients experience uncertainty and stress as a result of the cancer treatment compounded by what is called “financial toxicity”  or the anxiety and distress that follows health care and medical expenses, often compounded by reduced ability to pay.

Using data from 233 advanced cancer patients receiving treatment, they found that the COST (Comprehensive Score for financial Toxicity) questionnaire identified patients in financial stress. They said “As expected, we found a strong association between a patient’s use of health care resources and his or her sense of financial toxicity.  For example, more than two admissions to the hospital significantly affected a patient’s financial toxicity. The questionnaire has 11 brief statements about costs, resources and concerns and for each question patients circled one of five possible responses to determine their level of concern. An example of a question included “I feel financially stressed.”

Researchers found several factors associated with financial toxicity. These included employment status, household income, psychological stress, number of hospital admissions, and race in rank order.  Researchers were surprised to find a lack of perceived financial benefit from participating in clinical trials even when there was no cost. Researchers said “It is important to note that the financial distress identified by the COST scale captures a unique set of stressors affecting patients above and beyond the physical and psychological strains of the disease.” Further research is planned.

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