To describe patient-reported financial toxicity for patients who received localized colorectal cancer (CRC) treatment in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
CRC is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death. In the private sector, many patients suffer economic hardship from CRC and its treatment. This leads to financial toxicity, or the negative impact of medical expenses, which is a strong independent predictor of quality of life. In the VHA patients access cancer care based on a sliding fee scale; however, there is a knowledge gap regarding financial toxicity for CRC patients in the VHA whose out of pocket costs have largely been subsidized.
We performed a descriptive, retrospective analysis of a survey administered at a VHA facility to patients with colorectal cancer who received localized treatment (ie, surgery or chemoradiotherapy). The survey consisted of 49 items assessing several clinical and psychosocial domains including subjective financial burden and use of financial coping strategies. Additionally, we used the validated Confusion, Hubbub and Order Scale (CHAOS) measure, which was designed to assess the level of confusion and disorganization in homes.
Between November 2015 and September 2016, we mailed surveys to 265 patients diagnosed with CRC, 133 responded, for a response rate of 50%. For financial strain, 24% (n=32) of participants reported reduced spending on basics like food or clothing to pay for their cancer treatment, 17% (n=23) reported using all or a portion of their savings to pay for their cancer care,14% (n=18) noted borrowing money or using a credit card to pay for care, and 9% (n=12) of participants noted they did not fill a prescription because it was too expensive.
Despite policies to reduce out-of-pocket costs for VHA patients with CRC, patients reported significant financial toxicity. In the continued movement for value-based care centered on whole person care delivery, identifying persistent financial toxicity for vulnerable cancer patients is important data as we try and improve the infrastructure to impact quality of life and healthcare delivery for this population.