The financial burden of cancer: Estimates from a study of insured women with breast cancer

Ahsan M. Arozullah, Elizabeth A. Calhoun, Michael Wolf, Denise K. Finley, Karen A. Fitzner, Elizabeth A. Heckinger, Nicolle S. Gorby, Glen T. Schumock, Charles L. Bennett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


The financial impact of cancer can be large, even among persons with comprehensive health insurance policies. Prior studies have found that women with cancer are especially likely to suffer financial hardship. Although controversial, cancer insurance policies are designed to reduce the financial burden of cancer. In this study, we provide estimates of the costs incurred by a cohort of breast cancer patients who were covered by private, Medicare, or Medicaid health insurance. In all, 156 women were interviewed about cancer-related out-of-pocket costs and their knowledge and use of cancer insurance policies. Out-of-pocket expenditures and lost income costs averaged $1,455 per month and varied widely. The majority of out-of-pocket costs were for co-payments for hospitalizations and physician visits. The financial burden of breast cancer accounted for a mean of 98%, 41%, and 26% of monthly income among female breast cancer patients with annual household income levels of ≤$30,000, $30,001-$60,000, and > $ 60,000, respectively. Cancer insurance policies provided reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenditures for 3% of the women in our study. Our data indicate that even among women with comprehensive health insurance policies, the financial burden of breast cancer can be substantial. Affordable programs that provide reimbursement for medical and nonmedical costs incurred following a diagnosis of breast cancer should be developed, especially for lower income women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Supportive Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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