Young adult cancer survivors faced with issues related to work and money

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The study suggests that the disease and treatments impact more than just physical health

For young adult cancer survivors, beating the disease comes with its own set of trials and tribulations to overcome once treatment has ended.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus recently found that young adult cancer survivors often struggle with issues surrounding debt and work.

"This project combined the expertise of researchers with diverse training from major cancer centers throughout the U.S. in a team-science approach, which made it possible to gather and explore data from adolescent and young adult cancer survivors in new ways,” said researcher Betsy Risendal, PhD. “As a result, this is among the first and largest studies to examine the impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment on work-related outcomes in this important understudied group of survivors.”

What happens after treatment

The researchers conducted a survey of nearly 900 cancer survivors between the ages of 18 and 39, all of whom were at least one year out of treatment.

The participants had different types of cancer, which also comes with different courses of treatment, and the researchers discovered through this study that this led to several different outcomes when treatment was over.

However, regardless of the type of cancer, there was an increased risk for participants to suffer through both mental and physical work-related issues, struggle with managing time off of work, and accrue debt.

The participants’ cancer types broke down as follows:

  • 241 breast cancer survivors

  • 126 thyroid cancer survivors

  • 126 leukemia/lymphoma survivors

  • 342 survivors of other types of cancer

Overall, the researchers found that over 50 percent of participants experienced difficulties with certain tasks at work because of cancer or subsequent treatment, while nearly 60 percent reported being compromised physically at their jobs.

Moreover, roughly two percent of participants had to file for bankruptcy, and over 14 percent borrowed over $10,000 to pay for treatments.

As one of the largest studies to explore how cancer survivors are affected post-treatment, the researchers hope these findings can shed a light on some of the issues survivors face that go beyond physical health.

"The results of this study are important because they describe the challenges faced by adolescent and young adults during and after cancer treatment that could uniquely impact both educational and work-related opportunities," said Risendal.

To see the entire study, click here.

Financial burden

Recent studies have explored the financial risks associated with cancer, and found that not only are drug costs going up, but the disease can also lower household income.

Not only are health-related costs on the rise, but researchers have found that more money doesn’t always mean better results, especially where breast cancer is concerned. Researchers urge patients and healthcare providers to discuss all treatment options and consider cost when making a final decision.

“As physicians, we increasingly are recognizing the financial burden on our patients," said Dr. Sharon Giordana. "Both physicians and patients need greater access to information about the treatment costs, so this critical issue can be discussed during a patient's decision making process."

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