The Financial Burden of Breast Cancer

A recent study examined the financial impact of lymphedema following a diagnosis of breast cancer. Researchers in Australia surveyed 361 women who had either breast cancer without lymphedema (209 patients) or breast cancer with lymphedema (152 patients). The results showed that both breast cancer and lymphedema result in significant out-of-pocket financial costs borne by women during and after treatment. For breast cancer patients with lymphedema, 80% indicated that their breast cancer diagnosis had affected them financially compared with 67% of patients without lymphedema. For patients with lymphedema, 56% indicated that lymphedema affected them financially and that costs increased with lymphedema severity. The cost of compression garments formed a large proportion of these costs, as well as attendance at physical therapy and treatment of cellulitis in patients with more significant lymphedema. Researchers noted the significant knowledge gap regarding the additional impact of lymphedema on breast cancer survivors.

While this study was conducted in Australia, it applies equally to breast cancer patients in the United States. Insurance often does not cover compression garments and patients face significant out-of-pocket costs for therapy to treat lymphedema. The cost for management goes up when lymphedema is more significant.

The education and surveillance for early detection offered to all our patients by TurningPoint helps maintain lymphedema, when it occurs, at as low a level as possible. This reduces the physical, emotional and financial impact of the condition. TurningPoint also reduces barriers to lymphedema care by providing financial assistance for treatment and garments for patients in financial need.

Boyages J et al. Financial cost of lymphedema borne by women with breast cancer. Psycho-oncology.  2016 Aug 1. doi: 10.1002/pon.4239. [Epub ahead of print]