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Researchers examined data from 1,000 people in the United States who had been diagnosed with colorectal or lung cancer. Of those patients, almost 900 had finished their treatments and were cancer-free, and more than 100 had advanced cancer.
Nearly half of the patients said they were struggling to pay their medical bills, which was linked with a poorer health-related quality of life.
This "financial toxicity" can impact cancer patients regardless of income, employment, or status of their cancer and other health problems, according to the study.
"Our focus has been on how the cost of cancer care impacts a patient's well-being, and we found that patients are at risk of experiencing financial harm as a result of the treatments we prescribe," lead author Dr. Yousuf Zafar, associate professor at Duke University, said in a university news release.
"Even for patients who have insurance, those out-of-pocket costs add up," Zafar said.
"Patients are at risk for not adhering to their treatments due to cost. They may have to borrow, spend their savings, or cut back on basics like food and clothing, all to help pay for care," he explained in the news release.
"Financial toxicity is potentially harming our patients. Without a doubt, we have our patients' best interests in mind, so if we become more cognizant of that, we're more likely to act on it," Zafar added.
"We as physicians don't bear the burden of finding the answer on our own. We might not have all the answers on how to decrease our patients' costs, but we have people around us -- pharmacists, financial advisors, social workers -- who are just a phone call away," he concluded.
The study was published Dec. 16 in the Journal of Oncology Practice.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Dec. 16, 2014