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Financial toxicity associated with a cancer diagnosis in publicly funded healthcare countries: a systematic review

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Abstract

Purpose

Financial toxicity related to cancer diagnosis and treatment is a common issue in developed countries. We seek to systematically summarize the extent of the issue in very high development index countries with publicly funded healthcare.

Methods

We identified articles published Jan 1, 2005, to March 7, 2019, describing financial burden/toxicity experienced by cancer patients and/or informal caregivers using OVID Medline Embase and PsychInfo, CINAHL, Business Source Complete, and EconLit databases. Only English language peer-reviewed full papers describing studies conducted in very high development index countries with predominantly publicly funded healthcare were eligible (excluded the USA). All stages of the review were evaluated in teams of two researchers excepting the final data extraction (CJL only).

Results

The searches identified 7117 unique articles, 32 of which were eligible. Studies were undertaken in Canada, Australia, Ireland, UK, Germany, Denmark, Malaysia, Finland, France, South Korea, and the Netherlands. Eighteen studies reported patient/caregiver out-of-pocket costs (range US$17–US$506/month), 18 studies reported patient/caregiver lost income (range 17.6–67.3%), 14 studies reported patient/caregiver travel and accommodation costs (range US$8–US$393/month), and 6 studies reported financial stress (range 41–48%), strain (range 7–39%), or financial burden/distress/toxicity among patients/caregivers (range 22–27%). The majority of studies focused on patients, with some including caregivers. Financial toxicity was greater in those with early disease and/or more severe cancers.

Conclusions

Despite government-funded universal public healthcare, financial toxicity is an issue for cancer patients and their families. Although levels of toxicity vary between countries, the findings suggest financial protection appears to be inadequate in many countries.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Longo.

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Appendix

1 Extract of OVID search (PDF 450 kb)

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2 PROSPERO template (PDF 532 kb)

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Longo, C.J., Fitch, M.I., Banfield, L. et al. Financial toxicity associated with a cancer diagnosis in publicly funded healthcare countries: a systematic review. Support Care Cancer 28, 4645–4665 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05620-9

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