FRIDAY, June 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A tool to assess
"financial toxicity" for cancer patients -- namely, the expense,
anxiety and stress of illness-related costs -- has been developed
by University of Chicago Medical Center cancer specialists.
Many cancer patients face exorbitant and unpredictable treatment
costs often at a time when they're less able to work, the
researchers point out.
"Few physicians discuss this increasingly significant side
effect with their patients," study author Dr. Jonas de Souza, a
head-and-neck cancer specialist, said in a university news release.
"Physicians aren't trained to do this. It makes them, as well as
patients, feel uncomfortable. We aren't good at it."
According to de Souza, "a thoughtful, concise tool that could
help predict a patient's risk for financial toxicity might open the
lines of communication."
The team developed a brief questionnaire after discussions with
150 patients with advanced cancer, according to the study in the
July issue of the journal
For each of the 11 questions -- such as "My out-of-pocket
medical expenses are more than I thought they would be" or "I am
not able to meet my monthly expenses" -- patients choose from five
potential responses: not at all, a little bit, somewhat, quite a
bit, or very much.
The patients' answers help health care providers identify those
who may require assistance such as financial counseling or referral
to a support network.
"We need better ways to find out which patients are most at
risk," de Souza said. "Then we can help them get financial
assistance. If patients know what to expect, they may want their
physicians to consider less costly medications."
The cost of cancer care in the United States is rising faster
than the cost of overall health care, the researchers said. Also,
the cost of new cancer drugs is increasing more rapidly than the
cost of overall cancer care, they added.
Annual medical costs increase by more than $4,000 for male
cancer survivors and by nearly $3,300 for female cancer survivors,
according to a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, about 30 percent of cancer survivors can't return to
work or are less able to work, according to the CDC.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology has more about