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More Than Half of Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients Have Bills in Collections: Survey

More than half of 1,054 patients with metastatic breast cancer who participated in a survey recently indicated they had stopped or were refusing treatments because of the cost, and 54% of those who were surveyed said they had been contacted by a debt collector because of an unpaid cancer-related debt.

The findings were reported at a recent symposium of the American Society of Clinical Oncology related to a phenomenon known as “financial toxicity” and the impact that the cost of cancer-related care can have on the health and recovery of a patient.

Nearly 70% of the respondents indicated that they were worried about how they were going to pay their medical bills.

About 70% of the survey respondents had some form of medical insurance; the remaining 30% did not. About 90% of the uninsured patients reported being contacted by a debt collector, compared to about one-third of the insured patients, according to the study.

The median survival period for patients diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer is 27 months.

Some other interesting statistics from the survey:

  • Uninsured individuals more often reported refusing or delaying treatment due to cost (98% vs. 41% of insured)
  • Uninsured individuals were more likely to report skipping non-medical bills (40% vs. 16%)
  • Uninsured individuals were more likely to stop working after being diagnosed (65% vs. 46%)
  • More uninsured individuals had been contacted by a collections agency (77% vs. 36%)
  • Insured participants reported higher cost-related emotional distress, including being “quite a bit” or “very” stressed about not knowing cancer costs (53% vs. 32%) and about financial stress on their family due to their cancer (52% vs. 27%)

“Metastatic breast cancer patients reported an unprecedented level of cancer-related financial harm and significant worry about the financial legacy left behind in the wake of their illness,” the study concluded. “Health insurance expansion is a necessary, but insufficient strategy to address this financial burden; additional interventions to prevent and mitigate cancer-related financial harm are urgently needed.”


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