Study Finds Breast Cancer Patients Experience Financial Hardship, Employment Issues Following Diagnosis

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new study shows that women diagnosed with breast cancer are vulnerable to experiencing financial hardships and employment performance issues following diagnosis and throughout treatment. RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed more than 800 women from California, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina to evaluate the insurance, employment and financial experiences of young female breast cancer survivors.

“Our research shows that nearly half of the surveyed young breast cancer survivors experienced financial decline resulting from their diagnosis and treatment,” said Sujha Subramanian, PhD, RTI Senior Fellow and co-author of the study. “Also, respondents shared that they made employment decisions solely based on their diagnosis in order to maintain their health insurance coverage and paid more out of pocket for treatment even with health insurance or a supportive work environment.”

The women who continued to work during their breast cancer diagnosis and treatment (73.4 percent) reported having numerous work-related issues, such as taking paid (55.1 percent) or unpaid (47.3 percent) time off and experiencing job performance issues (40.4 percent).  Overall, 47 percent experienced financial decline due to treatment-related costs. Patients with only high-school degrees, multiple comorbidities, late stage diagnoses, and self-funded insurance were most vulnerable..

The study showed that even though 92.5 percent of the respondents were continuously insured over the last 12 months during their diagnosis and treatment, nearly 10 percent reported they paid a “higher price than expected” for health care coverage and another 7 percent lost health insurance coverage.

The study adds to the growing literature that quantifies the unique barriers minority experience when diagnosed with breast cancer and the various factors that contribute to their financial decline.

Respondents were younger than 40 years old and diagnosed with breast cancer between January 2013 and December 2014.