Sunday, November 26, 2017

When is the cost of treatment too high?

CANCER DIGEST – Nov. 24, 2017 – Unfortunately, that’s a question that too many cancer patients face every day. As the cost of newer and sometimes more effective treatments soar into the thousands of dollars per month more and more patients are making choices that reduce the effectiveness of those treatments.

In a recent National Cancer Opinion Survey, by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 27 percent of Americans who have cancer or have a family member with cancer have taken steps to lower their treatment costs. Such steps include skipping appointments, refusing treatment, not filling prescriptions, skipping doses or splitting doses, all are actions that can reduce the effectiveness of treatment.
The problem has become so common oncologists have called it "financial toxicity." In a blog post by Dr. Lidia Schapira, editor of ASCO’s Cancer.Net she expressed a growing concern of oncologists as they grapple with the discussion of cost with their patients. She wrote that when patients who have the discussion with their doctors, nearly one-third of those discussions included ways to lower costs, according to a study in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Dr. Schapira offered 5 tips for having the cost discussion with your doctor.
  1. Ask your cancer care team. It’s perfectly fine to speak up. Find someone on your team with whom you feel comfortable discussing finances. This could be your oncologist, oncology nurse, social worker, nurse navigator, or any of the other professionals who are dedicated to your well-being.
  2. Speak with your specialty pharmacist. If your treatment plan involves special medications, you may have to go to a specialty pharmacy. The specialty pharmacists there may be able to answer questions and help you solve problems. They are often very helpful and resourceful.
  3. Ask if there is a financial counselor where you receive treatment. If a financial counselor is available, he or she may be able to identify additional resources to help you cover costs or find cheaper and effective alternatives.
  4. Reach out to your employer’s human resources department or insurance company. A representative from your work’s human resources department or from your insurance company may be able to give you valuable information. This information can help you discuss the treatment plan with a clear idea of what it may cost.
  5. Contact patient advocacy organizations. Many patient advocacy organizations are devoted to people with specific kinds of cancer. Others address general issues in cancer. These organizations can also help you get the answers you’re looking for.

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