Cancer Survivors Identify Lingering Medical, Financial Troubles

The number of cancer survivors may be on the rise, but they experience continuing issues that can impair their quality of life beyond 5 years of survival, according to a new study published in Cancer.

The number of cancer survivors may be on the rise, but they experience continuing issues that can impair their quality of life beyond 5 years of survival, according to a new study published in Cancer.

A fifth of patients reported that financial problems related to the cost of treatment persisted long after treatment, the researchers found. In particular, Black and Hispanic survivors were hit the hardest financially.

“Overall, we found that cancer survivors are often caught off guard by the lingering problems they experience after cancer treatment,” lead author Mary Ann Burg, PhD, LCSW, of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, said in a statement.

The authors used responses from 1514 cancer survivors collected by the American Cancer Society. Respondents answered the open-ended question: “Please tell us about any needs you have now as a cancer survivor that ARE NOT being met to your satisfaction.”

The participants were a mix of 2-, 5-, and 10-year cancer survivors and ranged in age from 24 to 97 years. The researchers found breast cancer survivors identified more unmet needs, while male survivors, especially prostate cancer survivors, identified personal control problems. Generally, older survivors identified fewer unmet needs than their younger counterparts.

"This study was unique in that it gave a very large sample of cancer survivors a real voice to express their needs and concerns,” Dr Burg said.

While financial troubles were a problem, survivors more frequently expressed lingering physical problems, with 38% citing those were an issue. Also, anxiety about recurrence was common regardless what type of cancer the survivor had or how many years they had survived.

According to Dr Burg, there needs to be more honest communication about the side effects of cancer and better coordination of resources to help survivors and their families cope with lingering challenges.

“In the wake of cancer, many survivors feel they have lost a sense of personal control, have reduced quality of life, and are frustrated that these problems are not sufficiently addressed within the medical care system,” she said.