Mehlis, K., Witte, J., Surmann, B., Kudlich, M., Apostolidis, L., Walther, J., Jäger, D., Greiner, W., Winkler, E. C.
BACKGROUND: Financial toxicity of cancer has so far been discussed primarily in the US health care system and is associated with higher morbidity and mortality. In European health care systems, the socio-economic impact of cancer is poorly understood. This study investigates the financial burden and patient-reported outcomes of neuroendocrine (NET) or colorectal (CRC) cancer patients at a German Comprehensive Cancer Center. METHODS: This prospective cross-sectional study surveyed 247 advanced stage patients (n = 122 NET/n = 125 CRC) at the National Center for Tumor Diseases, in Germany about cancer-related out-of-pocket costs, income loss, distress, and quality of life. Multiple linear regression analysis was performed to demonstrate the effects of economic deterioration on patients’ quality of life and distress. RESULTS: 81% (n = 199) of the patients reported out-of-pocket costs, and 37% (n = 92) income loss as a consequence of their disease. While monthly out-of-pocket costs did not exceed 200€ in 77% of affected patients, 24% of those with income losses reported losing more than 1.200€ per month. High financial loss relative to income was significantly associated with patients’ reporting a worse quality of life (p < .05) and more distress (p < .05). CONCLUSIONS: Financial toxicity in third-party payer health care systems like Germany is caused rather by income loss than by co-payments. Distress and reduced quality of life due to financial problems seem to amplify the burden that already results from a cancer diagnosis and treatment. If confirmed at a broader scale, there is a need for targeted support measures at the individual and system level.