Study Shows How Radiation Therapy Impacts Cancer Patient Finances

Men who early-stage prostate cancer have varying risks of “financial toxicity,” according to a study in The Journal or Urology.

“Cost of treatment and the associated financial burden could be an important factor in treatment decisions,” says Daniel A. Barocas, MD, MPH, associate professor of urology and medicine at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. and senior author via a press release. Financial toxicity is a relatively new term in cancer care and can be defined as “the distress or hardship experienced by patients due to the cost of cancer treatment.”

In this study, researchers developed a questionnaire asking about the direct and indirect costs of prostate cancer and its treatment. Financial burdens were compared for patients choosing surgery (radical prostatectomy), external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), or active surveillance. (Other treatment groups were considered too small for analysis.)

According to the results, 15% of patients said they experienced “a large or very large” burden of treatment costs. The financial burden was highest for patients who underwent EBRT: 11 percent of patients reported burdens consistent with financial toxicity.

“Our research shows radiation therapy seems to have the highest financial burden for patients with clinically localized prostate cancer, compared to surgery or active surveillance,” said lead author Benjamin V. Stone, MD. “However, our study also shows there is a relatively small percentage of patients who experience a large or very large financial burden due to treatment, and the financial burden lessens over time.”

“Overall, our follow-up study suggests that radiation therapy has a longer-lasting burden of costs, compared to other initial treatment options for prostate cancer,” the researchers concluded.