Cancer patients more likely to file for bankruptcy

Cancer patients are more likely than other patients to file for bankruptcy due to medical bills, according to a new study in Health Affairs.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, the University of Utah School of Medicine and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge, among others. It concluded that those individuals who were treated for cancer were 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcies than those who had other medical needs.

The study of more than 231,000 individuals in Washington State diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2009 cited a variety of reasons that cancer treatment causes such a severe financial hardship. Among them are the fact non-elderly cancer patients shoulder a collective $1.3 billion a year of their treatment costs out of pocket, and up to 85 percent of them are forced to stop work during their treatment, often for months at a time.

Even after their initial treatment stops, cancer patients often face problems with work. Breast cancer patients, for example, see their earnings drop an average of $3,600 annually for the five years after their diagnosis.

Meanwhile, the cost of treating cancer at U.S. hospitals is expected to rise as much as 50 percent by the end of the decade.

To learn more:
- read the study