Malignant mesothelioma creates chaos. In the wake of an emotionally overwhelming diagnosis, patients struggle to comprehend their new reality while simultaneously being rushed into treatment to extend survival and improve the quality of their lives. The treatments are necessary whether patients opt for a curative or palliative approach, but their high price introduces financial stress to an already fraught situation. A study just published in the journal JCO Oncology Practice points to the need for cancer patients of all types to receive additional support to help them face these additional challenges.
Innovative Mesothelioma Treatment Introduces Financial Hardship
Though mesothelioma patients have traditionally been treated with a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, innovative immunotherapy treatments are becoming more common, particularly now that the combination of nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy) have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Though effective, these treatments are remarkably expensive, and financial hardship created by their use is common. Researchers led by Laurie E. McLouth, PhD, Markey Cancer Center, Center for Health Equity Transformation at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine in Lexington examined the relationship between these new treatments and their economic fallout.
The study focused on patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, but the findings can easily be applied to mesothelioma patients treated with immunotherapy or chemoimmunotherapy. Sixty patients completed surveys assessing material, psychological, and behavioral financial hardship introduced by the costs of care. For most, the largest expense was a result of cancer-related employment reductions on the patient or on their caregiver.
High Cost of Treating Mesothelioma Patients Must be Met with Greater Institutional Support
In assessing the patients’ survey responses, the team found that almost half the patients reported unmet needs in physical or daily living and psychological domains, with financial hardship common and high levels of uncertainty. According to senior author Kathryn E. Weaver, PhD, of the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine and Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, “Increased access to psychological support and education appears critical to better support metastatic NSCLSC cancer patients receiving immunotherapy.”
The team’s findings are applicable to patients with all types of cancers, including malignant mesothelioma. Dr. Weaver points to the fact that patients are initially assessed for insurance-related barriers and financial challenges with little follow-up once expensive treatments begin. She says that “other studies have suggested that patients are reluctant to bring up financial concerns with their oncologists.” The team suggests ongoing screening of financial concerns to identify when financial hardship arises and then connect patients with resources.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, the resources you need are available. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.