SATURDAY, Sept. 29, 2018 -- The cost of breast cancer treatment rarely comes up in doctor-patient discussions -- but most patients wish it would, researchers report.
"Doctors and patients should be open to discussing the financial implications of treatment," said study author Dr. Rachel Greenup, of the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C.
"Cost transparency could improve the quality of treatment decisions patients make and has the potential to reduce the risk of financial harm," she added.
Her team surveyed more than 750 women diagnosed with breast cancer. Half the patients were younger than 50. Most had either private health insurance or Medicare and household incomes of more than $74,000.
The researchers found that even though the women were relatively well-off, nearly 16 percent said their diagnosis was financially catastrophic. More than half had out-of-pocket costs of $3,500 or more. And 5 percent faced out-of-pocket costs of more than $30,000.
The study also revealed that 8 in 10 patients, including those with good health insurance, would prefer to have a cost estimate before beginning treatment.
Forty percent said they would want their doctor to consider costs when making treatment decisions.
"Overwhelmingly, women cared about the cost of their breast cancer care, and almost half reported considering costs when making treatment decisions," Greenup said in a Duke news release. "Despite this, 79 percent reported never discussing costs with their medical team."
Greenup is expected to present the findings Saturday at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, in Phoenix. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Breastcancer.org provides more on the costs of breast cancer treatment.
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