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A House of Cards: The Impact of Treatment Costs on Women With Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Sherwood, Paula R. PhD, RN, CNRN; Donovan, Heidi S. PhD, RN; Rosenzweig, Margaret PhD, RN, CRNP-C, AOCN; Hamilton, Rebekah PhD, RN; Bender, Catherine M. PhD, RN

doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000339255.75947.a8

Although much work has been done to quantify the direct and indirect costs of cancer treatment, little is known regarding how these costs impact the daily lives of persons undergoing active treatment of cancer. Content analysis performed on open-ended interviews with 22 women in 3 income categories undergoing chemotherapy for a diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer revealed 7 themes. Most participants stated that they felt "lucky" or "thankful" that most of the treatment costs were being covered by insurance or personal income. Women also described receiving financial assistance from friends, family, and support organizations and stated that they often made trade-offs between paying for regular family expenses and paying for treatment-related expenses. Worry about future financial expenses and frustrations dealing with regulatory agencies were also pervasive in the interviews. Finally, participants described having to access retirement/savings accounts and voiced concerns regarding the impact of cancer treatment on their work income. Data from the study illuminate the personal impact of cancer costs and suggest that interventions to assist women with cancer in financial planning and negotiating with insurance companies may offset some of the financial burden of cancer treatment.

Authors' Affiliation: School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This work was supported by "The Costs of Cancer Care," funded by the Center for Research and Evaluation, School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh.

Corresponding author: Paula R. Sherwood, PhD, RN, CNRN, School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, 336 Victoria Bldg, 3500 Victoria St, Pittsburgh, PA 15261 (

Accepted for publication June 25, 2008.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.