The financial fallout from breast cancer can last years after diagnosis, particularly for those with lymphedema, a common side effect from treatment, causing cumulative and cascading economic consequences for survivors, their families, and society, a study led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers suggests.
Excluding productivity costs, those with lymphedema were estimated to have an average of $2,306 in out-of-pocket costs per year, compared to $1,090 for those without lymphedema — a difference of 112 percent, the study found. When factoring in productivity costs, those with lymphedema spent an average of $3,325 in out-of-pocket costs, compared to $2,792 for those without lymphedema.
“That extra $2,000 or so may not break the bank in one year,” says study leader Dr. Lorraine T. Dean, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. “But it can take away discretionary spending, or whittle away retirement savings. If it’s a recurring burden each year, how can you ever rebuild? That extra $2,000 in spending can cripple people over the long term.”
The findings, published Aug. 18 in the Journal of Supportive Care and Cancer, are a call to action for policymakers to develop new ways to curb costs after cancer, the authors say.