Skrabal Ross, X., Gunn, K. M., Olver, I.
PURPOSE: To explore strategies rural Australians use to cope with the financial consequences of their cancer diagnosis and how that impacts on their lives. METHODS: Twenty adult cancer patients/survivors residing in regional-remote areas of Australia were purposively sampled and participated in audio-recorded, semi-structured interviews. When data saturation was reached, thematic analysis was employed to analyse the data. RESULTS: Participants were 20-78 years (M=60), 70% female, 35% were undergoing treatment and the remaining 65% had finished treatment within the past 5 years. Three themes provide context to rural financial toxicity-related experiences (travelling to access cancer treatment away from home is expensive, being single or lacking family support exacerbates the financial strain, and no choice other than to adopt cost-saving strategies if wanted to access treatment). Strategies commonly employed to minimise financial toxicity include: accessing travel-related support, changes to lifestyle (buying cheaper food, saving on utilities), accessing savings and retirement funds, missing holidays and social activities, reduced car use and not taking a companion to cancer-related appointments at metropolitan treatment areas. Although cost-saving strategies can effectively increase the ability of rural people to cover cancer treatment-related and other costs, most have broader negative psychological, social and practical consequences for them and their families. CONCLUSIONS: Increasing rural cancer patients’ and survivors’ awareness of various cost-saving strategies and their impact (positive and negative) may decrease their risk of experiencing financial toxicity and unexpected unintended consequences of adopting cost-saving measures.