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The Importance of Discussing the Cost of Cancer Care with Patients

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Mason Walker
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The Importance of Discussing the Cost of Cancer Care with Patients

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The cost of healthcare, in particular cancer care, is a pressing issue that has been gaining increasing attention in recent years. Despite this, a study conducted by researchers at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has revealed that only about one-fourth of patients newly diagnosed with advanced cancers had documented discussions with their physicians about the costs of care. This glaring gap in communication underscores the necessity for such discussions in addressing medical financial hardship and ensuring that patients receive the care they need.

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The Study

The lead author of the study, Robin Yabroff, has expressed her ongoing interest in the cost of cancer care and financial hardship that patients face. The study found that patients who were uninsured and those receiving systemic treatment were more likely to have a cost conversation documented. This could be due to the fact that these groups are notably more vulnerable to financial strain, thereby making cost discussions more pertinent.

Barriers to Cost Discussions

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There exist several barriers to these cost discussions. The most significant among them is at the provider level. It's challenging for clinicians to predict the out-of-pocket costs for patients with different insurance types. This difficulty in knowing the expected out-of-pocket costs for a given patient often results in a lack of communication about the potential financial burden of cancer care.

The Need for Provider Training and Transparency

Yabroff highlighted the need for provider training, guidelines, and efforts to improve price transparency. These measures could potentially facilitate cost conversations between physicians and patients, helping them to make informed decisions about their treatment options. It is suggested that oncologists initiate the conversation about the cost of care and inform patients about it. This could help to alleviate some of the financial stress associated with cancer treatment and ensure that patients are not caught unawares by high medical bills.

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The Future of Cancer Care

Apart from cost discussions, experts in the field have been making strides in the treatment of specific types of cancer. For instance, at the 2023 European Society of Medical Oncology, experts discussed the use of biomarker testing for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). There, the FLAURA2 trial showed the potential to change the standard of care in the treatment of NSCLC with the use of therapies such as the addition of chemotherapy to osimertinib and VEGF inhibition.

Conclusion

The findings of this study serve as a baseline for future research and highlight the importance of addressing the financial burden of cancer care. As we move forward, it's crucial to continue to improve communication between patients and providers about the cost of care, while also developing and implementing new treatments to combat cancer.

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