Financial Toxicity of Breast Cancer Care: The Patient Perspective Through Surveys and Interviews

J Surg Res. 2023 Jan:281:122-129. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2022.08.021. Epub 2022 Sep 22.


Introduction: Although the economic burden of cancer care is an emerging concern in the United States, the potential financial toxicity of breast cancer care at the patient level remains poorly understood. This study aims to characterize the scope of the contributors to financial distress on breast cancer patients and the resources utilized to address them.

Methods: Adult female patients diagnosed with invasive breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ between 2014 and 2019 at a single institution were retrospectively evaluated. Those who enrolled in copay assistance or indicated financial concerns on an intake distress screen were provided a web-based survey assessing financial changes, resources used, and financial engagement with providers. Semi-structured interviews further explored sources of financial distress and were analyzed by two researchers using grounded theory methodology.

Results: Sixty-eight patients completed the online survey, 15 of the 68 also participated in semi-structured phone interviews. On the online survey 74% of participants endorsed a financial distress score ≥5 on a scale of 0-10. Seventy-four percent changed their budget, 72% used their savings, and 60% cut down on spending. However, only 40% used resources such as financial counseling or financial assistance. Interviews revealed three major contributors to financial distress: (1) unexpected medical and nonmedical expenses, (2) lost revenue from missed work, and (3) altered budgeting.

Conclusions: Many breast cancer patients experience significant financial distress without access to the resources they need. This study highlights the need for financial transparency, supportive financial services counseling at the time of diagnosis, throughout treatment and beyond.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Distress; Financial resources; Financial toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Financial Stress
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States