When deciding a course of treatment for cancer, most patients will likely explore a range of options, from the most conservative to the most aggressive. The decision on which path to take may involve extensive medical testing, consults with physicians and specialists and discussions with loved ones about the short- and long-term impacts of the treatments.
Another consideration may be finances. The cost of preventative cancer care may sway some patients against more aggressive forms of treatment, while for others the expense may be worth the peace of mind.
According to a recent report in HealthDay, women diagnosed with breast cancer who opted for a double mastectomy — the removal of both breasts, often undertaken to prevent the future recurrence of cancer — faced more pervasive financial challenges than those who pursued less-aggressive forms of treatment.
More than half of the 1,000 women studied had a lumpectomy, the most conservative treatment, while a third chose chemotherapy and the remaining had a mastectomy, either bilateral or unilateral.
The women who had both breasts removed were eight times more likely than those who had a lumpectomy to miss more than four weeks of work following the procedure. Those reduced working hours amounted to an average loss of more than $5,000 in income over that month.
Complicating the matter is that studies have shown that women who opt for a bilateral mastectomy largely would have achieved the same medical results from a lumpectomy — but pursued the more-aggressive treatment to err on the side of caution.
While there are pros and cons to being aggressive, the decision ultimately lies with each individual patient, who knows his or her body and mind best. Some may find the satisfaction of taking the most aggressive approach makes the cost of preventive cancer care worth it, while others may be hesitant to make that jump. For those weighing their options, financial assistance for cancer patients is also a factor to consider, as it can help close the gaps associated with lost income. Finances are a necessary part of the cancer conversation but, with adequate planning and forethought, they don’t have to be the deciding factor.