CDC: Costs of cancer don't end for survivors

Even after fighting off cancer, survivors often face severe challenges, such as high medical costs and productivity loss from missed work, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC analyzed cancer survivors' medical cost data between 2008 and 2011 and found they face serious financial burdens because of clinical follow-ups, managing long-term and late effects of their treatments, and monitoring for recurrence of the disease and other cancers because of increased risk.

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Survivors also missed wages from a number of factors, such as taking sick days or shortening their hours.

“Cancer survivors face physical, emotional, psychosocial, employment and financial challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said Donatus Ekwueme, a senior health economist at the CDC and lead author of the study.

He says improved cancer treatments mean 30 percent more people are expected to survive cancer in the next decade, and healthcare providers need to find ways to reduce their burden.

The study released in the CDC’s "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report" found male cancer survivors paid $8,000 for medical costs annually and made $3,700 less due to productivity loss. By comparison, men without a history of cancer paid $3,900 annually in medical costs and lost $2,300 due to loss in productivity.

Female cancer survivors had $8,400 in medical costs annually and $4,000 in productivity loss. By comparison women without a history of cancer paid $5,100 in medical costs annually and had $2,700 in productivity loss.

The report says at least a third of survivors who return to the workforce have to deal with long-term and late effects of their treatment, which interferes with their daily activities, making them less productive.

“These survivors might be returning to work to maintain adequate health insurance coverage and to pay for cancer-related services not covered by insurance,” adds the report. “The provisions of the Affordable Care Act are expected to help improve this situation by increasing access to health insurance for millions of persons living in the United States, including cancer survivors.”