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  The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cancer Treatment More Likely to Leave Blacks in Debt -- But Why?

Black patient with cancer

A new study on cancer survivors revealed that black cancer survivors are more likely than whites to accrue debt because of the cost of their cancer treatment, or even worse, forego treatment due to cost.
Cancer treatment is expensive, and many cancer patients feel the financial pressure due to the cost, but the study revealed that 31 percent of the black patients went into debt for their treatment, compared to 18 percent of whites.

Why do blacks incur more debt?

According to study researchers, the differences in financial debt between black and white patients may be due to differences in net worth, job status and insurance. In the U.S., there are often differences in socioeconomic status that increases the amount of debt incurred by black cancer patients, according to study author Theresa Hastert, who is assistant professor in the department of oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

Whites have more access to savings or retirement accounts

The study involved 1,000 breast, colon, lung or prostate cancer survivors between the ages of 20 and 79 who were diagnosed and/or treated at Karmanos. More than half of all the patients experienced some degree of financial hardship due to the cost of cancer treatment. More white patients -- 25 percent vs. 19 percent for black patients -- were able to reach into savings or retirement accounts to pay for their treatment. Black patients were more likely than whites to simply forego treatment due to cost.

Overall, 31 percent of the Black patients went into debt for their treatment, compared to 18 percent of whites. What is more alarming is that many patients have to even sell "assets, taking on debt, or even losing a home or declaring bankruptcy," according to Hastert.

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