Patients with advanced cancer are increasingly experiencing financial hardship (FH) and associated negative health outcomes.
The aims of this study were to describe FH and explore its relationship to quality of life (QOL) in patients with advanced cancer receiving outpatient palliative care (PC).
Validated questionnaires assessed FH, QOL dimensions, symptom burden, and sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. Descriptive statistics characterized the sample and described FH. Pearson correlation and linear regression assessed relationships between FH and QOL.
The average participant (n = 78) age was 56.6 (SD, 12.2) years. Most were female (56.4%), White (50%) or Black (46.2%), and had a range of education, partner statuses, and cancer diagnoses. Median time since cancer diagnosis was 35.5 months (interquartile range, 9-57.3 months). Highest mean symptom burden scores were for pain (2.5 [SD, 1.0]) and fatigue (2.0 [SD, 1.1]), on a 0- to 3-point scale (higher score representing worse symptom burden). The median COST (COmphrehensive Score for financial Toxicity) score was 15.0 (interquartile range, 9.0-23.0). Most (70%) had some (n = 43) or extreme (n = 9) difficulty paying for basic needs. Greater than 28% (n = 21) incurred cancer-related debt. Multivariate models indicated that FH negatively affected role limitations due to physical health (P = .008), pain (P = .003), and emotional well-being (P = .017) QOL dimensions.
Financial hardship, QOL, and symptom burden scores demonstrate need for continued support for and research among patients with advanced cancer. Data support links between FH and important QOL dimensions. Larger, longitudinal studies are needed to understand how FH affects QOL in patients with advanced cancer.
Implications for Practice
Proactive financial assessment and interventions are needed to support patients with advanced cancer experiencing the cumulative effects of cancer and its treatment.