Cancer updates: Study discusses how few doctors talk about cancer costs

We have continually shared staggering cancer statistics at this page over the course of the past few months. However, we noticed that we have posted fewer cancer industry updates. Here is one of them.

Cancer continues to take the lives of at least 595,690 people in 2016, according to the National Cancer Institute. The mortality rates depend upon the type of cancer, but overall many cancer rates have already declined over the years.

However, one of the things that seemed to be consistent is that paying for cancer treatment continues to be expensive for most people. In fact, people in developing countries consider cancer as a rich man’s disease, seeing as the treatment and preventive measures can be very expensive for those who are living beneath the poverty line. That being said, many people are simply dying from cancer. In fact, an article posted on stated that “one in eight people with advanced cancer turned down recommended care because of the cost…. And one in four cancer patients or their families said they used up all or most of their savings to pay for treatment.”

Meanwhile, another study says that cancer patient are more likely to file for bankruptcy in comparison with people who do not have a cancer diagnosis. Since many patients have to stop working once they start their round of treatments, the expenses tend to mount and their savings in turn are depleted. Add this to the fact that insurance may or may not cover treatments, depending on a person’s policy, and you would have the recipe for bankruptcy.

All these things are put into perspective by a recent study that said few doctors discuss treatment costs with their patients. The study authors taped conversations between oncologists and their patients at three outpatient clients, and they realized that doctors are unlikely to discuss treatment costs. According to the study, out of the 151 visits, patients asked about the costs in 106 instances, while doctors talked about in 45 instances. Of this number, only six patients were referred to social services to look for ways to make the treatment more affordable.

Yet the study agrees that its results are inconclusive—it is not a nationwide survey, and only a handful of doctors were sampled. Furthermore, some of the patients are not newly diagnosed, so they may already have an existing idea of how much their treatment costs.

The bottom line, however, is that patients must be empowered enough to ask about their treatment costs, particularly if funding for them is going to be a problem in the future. There are agencies they can tap in case they need financial assistance. Furthermore, their doctors may be able to point them in the right direction in terms of trying a more affordable treatment that it as effective as an expensive one.

At the end of the day, making the decision to be healthy should not come in between a person’s finances or the money he or she would be leaving to his family. Everyone has the right to get better—and the expenses of the treatment should not outweigh the benefits of getting better.  

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