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Keywords:

  • Chemotherapy;
  • Cost;
  • Radiotherapy;
  • Treatment barriers

purpose: An analytical cross-sectional survey was conducted to determine the prevalence of barriers to cancer treatment in Texas as perceived by diagnosed cancer patients. Results reported here address the role of insurance coverage, indirect costs (transportation, lodging, and work days lost), and direct costs of care as barriers to treatment for white, black, and Hispanic cancer patients. Specific objectives of the analyses undertaken here are to examine 1) racial/ethnic differences in insurance coverage; 2) barriers relating to insurance coverage experienced by cancer patients; and 3) role of treatment-related costs as barriers to cancer treatment.

description of study: A mail questionnaire was developed to assess the perceived barriers to cancer treatment in Texas for adult cancer patients, 17 years and older, who had been diagnosed with breast, colon, cervical, prostate, or lymphoma during the period of 1989 to 1993. The sampling frame for this study was obtained from a network of cancer treatment facilities throughout the state of Texas within the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Texas Community Oncology Network. A total of 593 cancer patients returned their surveys, yielding a 65.2% response rate. Weighting adjustments were then made to correct for differential sampling and response rates by racial groupings and type of cancer. All of the analyses used adjusted weights.

results: The findings document the financial considerations (insurance, direct and indirect costs) as they relate to barriers to cancer treatment. Specific insurance premium-related barriers with regard to maintaining and affording coverage were more prevalent for blacks. Hispanics were less likely to have insurance coverage; however, more blacks reported being denied insurance coverage when they changed jobs compared with whites and Hispanics. Minorities, particularly Hispanics, were more likely to have experienced cost-related barriers associated with medications, diagnostic tests, and hospitalizations. In addition, Hispanics experienced significant out-of-pocket costs in paying for cancer treatment.

clinical implications: This research shows the need for staff at cancer treatment facilities to be aware that there are nonclinical, financial factors that are important considerations in the treatment of cancer patients. Assessment of cancer patients during the diagnostic and treatment stages, possibly through case management, will provide information on potential barriers to treatment for individual patients. Hospital programs that reimburse out-of-pocket costs, transportation costs to obtain services, and lodging accommodations may be available. Additional services may be offered through cancer advocacy groups, such as the American Cancer Society and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivors, to assist patients with managing costs and overcoming barriers to care.