Heading off financial harms in cancer patients

A screening tool can quickly identify cancer patients at risk of financial toxicity, new findings from Columbia Nursing researchers show. 

Most cancer patients experience financial toxicity, or difficulty related to the cost of medical care, which is associated with worse outcomes and higher mortality, Assistant Professor Melissa Beauchemin, PhD ’19, and her colleagues explained in their report in the January issue of Oncology Nursing Forum.  

They evaluated the Comprehensive Score for Financial Toxicity (COST), an 11-item questionnaire, in 50 women with breast cancer. Twenty-seven of the women met criteria for financial toxicity, meaning a COST score below 22. Most of the study participants had some college education, and nearly half had commercial insurance.

“Awareness of financial toxicity, its prevalence and implications, and potential strategies to mitigate this problem are important to providing high-quality cancer care,” Beauchemin and her colleagues note. “Real action will require multilevel modifications involving not only the patient, family, and clinicians, but also the institutional and policy levels to address the upstream causes of financial toxicity, including adverse social determinants of health and structural inequities.” 

Beauchemin is the scientific co-lead of cancer care delivery research for the Minority/Underserved National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and conducted the study with colleagues from CUIMC. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health.