Young and Poor Can't Afford Colon Cancer Costs

A new study revealed that, in general, colon cancer victims who are under 50 years old and those that do not have a stable income or who are unemployed are subjected to harsher financial difficulties than their older, more solvent counterparts due to expensive colon cancer treatments necessary to save lives.

Washington State research found that those patients aged 50 and under who were undergoing colon cancer therapy were more likely to refinance or mortgage their homes to keep up with colon cancer treatment cost. Some went into debt and others tried borrowing money from relatives and friends.

Moreover, household with incomes amounting to less than $30,000 were the hardest hit. According to Dr. Veena Shankaran, who headed the Washington State study team, and who is a cancer expert from the University of Washington, researchers wanted to do the study because colon cancer treatment cost was frequently discussed in the clinic, and they wanted to understand the impact of financial status on getting successful treatment. Their research also found out that patients do not talk openly about the expenses involved in colon cancer treatment with their doctors. Many patients opt to skip treatment or not go in at all instead because of the high financial costs involved.

The study group sent a survey to 555 patients with late-stage colon cancer between 2008 and 2010. The survey asked about the patients’ financial standing, whether they were insured or not and how they were handling colon cancer treatment. Only 284 persons gave back the survey, but among those who participated, almost 36% reported financial difficulties because of the cost of colon cancer treatment.

Dr. Shankaran and the research team were astonished by what they discovered. They said that they thought the patients who experienced financial difficulties probably didn’t have ample savings or other means to cover the colon cancer treatment costs. 27% of the survey group did not have as many problems with money and did not have to resort to cash generation by way of selling property or stocks to cope with additional treatment expenses. 5% to 7% chose not to undergo colon cancer treatment because of the expenses involved.

An editorial in the Journal of Clinical Oncology written by Cathy Bradley, a researcher at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond who studies health policy, gave some tips on how to cope with these financial situations. She stated that investing in preventative care is best.

The best way to prevent colon cancer is to schedule a routine colonoscopy every 10 years after you turn 50 years old. A colonoscopy is a semi-invasive but ultimately very beneficial test during which a doctor can examine the inside of your bowels. During the colonoscopy, a tube with a camera and a small light attached to it guided slowly through the anus, rectum and colon and used for viewing. However, with the advent of modern endoscopy techniques, colonoscopy is not a patient’s only option. He or she can also choose non-invasive techniques such as virtual colonoscopy.

The government should be able to work with drug companies to expand Medicare coverage and lessen the cost of medicines used to treat colon cancer. The government could also start programs that allowed more benefits to assist cancer victims. Finally, medical personnel especially the doctors should discuss with the patient the entire process of colon cancer treatment costs to avoid being shocked with the amount involved and make informed decisions. For example, the average chemotherapy treatment, which lasts about 8 weeks, will end up costing more than $30,000 in some cases.

Dr. Shankaran says that patients should talk freely with their doctors about how much they are paying. There may be a chance that the doctor will give an alternative method of treatment when he or she is aware of how expensive his or her recommendation is and how that cost may be a burden on certain families.

Dr. Shankaran also said that a lot of oncologists maintain a financial advisor in the clinic to assist colon cancer patients and others in going through their resources and other options. Patients should seek out this type of assistance as much as possible to reduce the burden of stress and medical bills accrued during colon cancer treatment. Refer to a gastroenterologist in your area for more information about colon cancer treatment costs.