Cancer Wreaks Havoc on More Than Just Physical Health

Patients with cancer see a decline in employment, hours worked, individual income, and total family income following diagnosis.

Patients with cancer see a decline in employment, hours worked, individual income, and total family income following diagnosis.

For patients afflicted with cancer, the battle against the disease extends passed just physical and mental health.

A cancer treatment regimen can also have a significant impact on the financial wellbeing of patients as well.

A recent study published in Cancer based on the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) showed treatment for cancer has a significant affect on employment, hours worked, individual income, and total family income.

The researchers evaluated data from the nationally representative, prospective, observational PSID survey, which includes individual and family-level financial information.

The respondents were interviewed between 1999 and 2009, with data for the years between 1989 and 2009. The researchers pared down the initial sample size from more than 17,000 individuals to 1117 patients diagnosed with cancer and 15,865 individuals without cancer.

The average age of patients diagnosed with cancer was 52.5 years, compared with 37.1 years of age in those not diagnosed with cancer. Approximately 60% of the cancer group were women, compared with 50% in the undiagnosed population who were women.

Researchers compared employment, hours worked, individual income, and total family income for 2 years prior to diagnosis and 2 years following diagnosis.

The results showed individuals without cancer had higher employment and overall income levels, while cancer patients experienced a drop in employment and earnings compared with the 2 years prior to diagnosis.

Among cancer patients within the prime working age group of 25 to 64 years, there was an approximately 10% reduction in the probability of employment 5 years following diagnosis.

Furthermore, working hours decreased by nearly 200 hours per year among survivors in the working age group, while annual earnings declined by approximately 40% within 2 years of diagnosis.

The overall income of families dropped by 20% in the second and third year following a family member being diagnosed with cancer. However, family income was normalized within nearly 5 years.

The economic recovery was attributed to increased compensation by the spouse, disability benefits, and financial contributions from other family members.

The study male cancer survivors suffered a greater impact on their finances compared with female survivors, most likely as a result of women comprising a significantly smaller proportion of the workforce.

“Fifteen million American adults are cancer survivors, and American families need economic support while they are dealing with the rigors of cancer treatment,” said study first author Anna Zajacova, PhD, of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. “Our paper suggests that families where an adult—especially a working-age male—is diagnosed with cancer suffer short-term and long-term declines in their economic well-being. We need to improve workplace and insurance safety nets so families can focus on dealing with the cancer treatment rather than deal with the financial and employment fallout.”