The escalating out-of-pocket costs associated with a cancer diagnosis are deterring some people from seeking treatment, a new Cancer Council Queensland study has found.
Cancer Council Queensland’s Everyday Health Survey, Health System Quality and Costs, revealed that high out-of-pocket costs discouraged 35 per cent of people surveyed from seeking medical advice when they noticed signs and symptoms of cancer.
The new data also showed 63 per cent of people struggled to meet out-of-pocket costs during cancer treatment, with 26 per cent reporting a severe impact financially.
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said the crippling financial burden faced by thousands of Queensland families affected by cancer each year could have a detrimental effect on survival outcomes.
“Escalating out-of-pocket costs not only contribute to the severe physical and psychological costs faced by cancer patients and their carers, but financial distress can influence decisions about treatment.” Ms McMillan said.
“It’s greatly concerning that up to two thirds of patients struggle to meet the costs associated with a cancer diagnosis, with others deterred from seeking treatment if they can’t afford it.
“One respondent said that the financial stress of being able to meet bills and keep up house repayments was more frightening than the cancer diagnosis itself.
“The findings are alarming and reinforce the critical need for greater financial support and a reduction in associated costs.
“Everyday Queenslanders diagnosed with cancer are struggling to pay their mortgages and meet ongoing associated costs with accessing treatment due to reduction or loss of income and a lack of awareness about financial support options.
“55 per cent of people surveyed said they would have accessed support services, if they had known about them, to ease the burden of a diagnosis.”
Ms McMillan called on the State Government to act urgently and reduce out-of-pocket costs to ensure that individual wealth did not play a role in uptake of adequate treatment.
“It’s time for the State Government to respond to calls for help from our community, and reduce the financial burden of cancer on those affected,” Ms McMillan said.
“It’s critical that every Queenslander diagnosed with cancer has access to treatment and support, without accumulating crippling debt as a result of the disease.
“The financial impact of a diagnosis increased with remoteness, with patients living rurally often needing to meet additional travel and accommodation costs.
“While organisations like Cancer Council provide vital emotional, practical and some financial assistance, it is a matter for Government to ensure that subsidised health services are available for those most in need.”
One person is diagnosed with cancer every 20 minutes in Queensland – more than 27,000 people each year.
“The survey has given us valuable insight into the out-of-pocket costs that Queenslanders are facing, and how these financial challenges influence treatment decisions and compliance with clinical advice,” Ms McMillan said.
“Going forward this enables us to look at ways we can help alleviate the financial burden through supportive services, and advocate for reduced out-of-pocket costs for all Queenslanders, all cancers.”
Cancer Council Queensland’s Everyday Health Survey was conducted in May, and surveyed cancer patients and carers.
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