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Young Breast Cancer Patients Struggle Financially, Even When Insured

THURSDAY, March 5, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Financial struggles are common among young breast cancer patients in the United States, even if they have steady jobs that provide health insurance, new research shows.

The study included 830 women, aged 18 to 39, in California, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina who were diagnosed with breast cancer between January 2013 and December 2014.

Nearly half (47%) of the women had financial challenges due to the costs of their cancer care, according to the study.

The researchers found that 27.7% of the women spent less than $500 on out-of-pocket costs, 27.9% spent $500 to $2,000, 18.7% spent $2,001 to $5,000, and 17% spent $5,001 to $10,000.

To pay for their out-of-pocket costs, 81.5% of the patients used personal funds, 22.9% borrowed from family or friends, 22.7% left some medical bills unpaid, 21.7% increased credit card debt, and 18.2% postponed paying bills.

Patients without a college degree were more likely to have financial struggles than those with more education. White women were less likely to have money problems than those in other racial or ethnic groups, but those differences weren't statistically significant, the study authors noted.

Women diagnosed with stage 3 or stage 4 cancer were more likely to have financial difficulties than those with less advanced cancer.

The study was published in the March issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The findings show that many breast cancer patients who are in the early years of their careers try to maintain their jobs to keep their health insurance. But despite having insurance, they may still have financial struggles, said study author Florence Tangka, a health economist in the division of cancer prevention and control at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"A lot of women don't have a good sense of how much a cancer diagnosis will cost, including out-of-pocket costs," she said in a journal news release. "We feel that if they have cost information, they can develop better financial plans to cover their treatment expenses."

More information

Breastcancer.org has more on breast cancer treatment costs.

SOURCE: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, news release, March 4, 2020

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