Experts presenting at a cancer conference discussed the financial pressures that people diagnosed with cancer face – and how it influences treatment decisions.
Clinical Nurse Consultant Tish Lancaster and Social Worker Kim Hobbs, both from Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, provided an insight into the common problems that those with cancer face, as well as more concerning examples of extreme disadvantage and how it can influence treatment decisions.
Presenter Tish Lancaster says that there is little research into what happens when someone who is already significantly disadvantaged is diagnosed with cancer, but the anecdotal evidence is concerning.
“60% of Australians have low levels of health literacy and this significantly affects their ability to understand essential health information, seek appropriate and timely care, make informed decisions or to self-manage health conditions.
“We see a lot of people who struggle with decisions about cancer treatment because they are the sole carer for a child, don’t have a support network, can’t maintain employment, aren’t able to navigate the health system or can’t do something as simple as getting to and from treatment. This ultimately impacts their treatment and we need to find better ways to understand what happens to these people with cancer, how it affects their treatment and outcomes and how to support them.”
Kim Hobbs shares the concern.
“Money is a major issue for cancer patients. I have had a patient decline cancer treatment because the $60 cost of transport was too high for her to manage – she didn’t realise there were services that could help with these other costs. Others have nowhere to go after they are discharged. What we are seeing is micro-financial toxicity that is influencing treatment decisions,” said Kim.
Kim Hobbs also explored some of the bigger issues related to cancer and financial decisions – including the increasing trend towards those with cancer using crowdfunding platforms to pay for their treatment, as well as the cost of new cancer drugs.
“At the same time that we are seeing patients struggle to pay for their recommended treatments, other patients are using crowdfunding platforms or their life savings to buy treatments that aren’t approved in Australia or may not be genuine. In other cases, we have individuals who can’t afford new expensive cancer drugs that might benefit them. Making decisions about these issues is a constant ethical dilemma for those working in cancer care.”
(Source: Oncology News: The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia session 2017)