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Financial toxicity affects more than your wallet.

First Aired: January 18, 2015

Dr. Yousuf Zafar

Dr. Yousuf Zafar

We’ve witnessed numerous medical advancements in recent years that have helped make treatment for cancer and other serious diseases more manageable. But those advances have come with rising costs – and patients are stuck with the bulk of those costs. As a result, even those with health insurance are finding it harder and harder to afford treatment. It not only stresses their wallets but also affects their emotional well-being. Our guest, Dr. Yousuf Zafar, has summed up the concern this way: “We can no longer afford to divorce costs from our discussion of patients’ treatment alternatives.”

Dr. Zafar is a medical oncologist at Duke Cancer Institute who works with patients with gastro-intestinal cancers. He also has dedicated his research – and his practice – to helping patients get high-quality care without breaking the bank. Research by Dr. Zafar and his colleagues shows that “financial toxicity” can be as serious a side effect as the physical toxicity of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments.

Here’s more information about the impact of financial toxicity:
Financial Toxicity, Part I: A New Name for a Growing Problem – published in Oncology journal
Financial Toxicity, Part II: How Can We Help With the Burden of Treatment-Related Costs? – published in Oncology journal
Full Disclosure: Out-of-Pocket Costs as Side Effects – published in the New England Journal of Medicine

Dr. Zafar encourages patients and family members to speak with their oncologist, a social worker or other members of the medical team about treatment cost concerns. You may also visit Cornucopia’s Online Resources page for a list of organizations that may be able to provide you with financial assistance for co-pays, prescription medications, travel expenses, and basic human needs.

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