Experiencing financial toxicity associated with cancer in publicly funded healthcare systems: a systematic review of qualitative studies
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PURPOSE: Understanding how patients and families experience, respond to, and cope with the financial burden associated with cancer could assist in identifying future research priorities and developing relevant interventions to assist patients and families facing financial hardship. This systematic review offers a synthesis of the qualitative evidence on cancer-related financial toxicity from the perspective of patients and/or informal caregivers in publicly funded healthcare systems where it might be expected that financial protection would be strongest. METHODS: Articles published between January 1, 2005, and March 7, 2019, describing financial burden experienced by cancer patients and/or informal caregivers were identified using OVID MEDLINE Embase and PsychInfo, CINAHL, Business Source Complete, and EconLit databases. English language, peer-reviewed qualitative papers describing studies conducted in countries with predominantly publicly funded healthcare systems were eligible. Quality appraisal was conducted using CASP Quality Appraisal Checklist. Narrative synthesis was completed with extracted data and themes identified inductively by all team members. RESULTS: Twelve articles were identified as eligible. Articles reported on 10 studies conducted in Australia (n = 2), Canada (n = 2), England (n = 3), and Ireland (n = 3). The papers illustrate the complexity and multifaceted nature of experiencing financial hardship following a cancer diagnosis. Each contributes to the whole picture, providing different viewpoints regarding various and diverse forms of financial hardship, the process of confronting financial challenges, working to overcome difficulties, and coping with the resulting impacts. Synthesis of the studies suggested five themes: household and medical costs are increased, financial resources are reduced, financial change and financial hardship vary, financial hardship has many consequences, various mitigation strategies are used. CONCLUSION: Cancer patients and their families can experience a broad range of impacts when they are facing and coping with financial toxicity. Consistent gaps in support highlight that strategies to mitigate financial effects related to travel, accommodation, medications, family support, and income replacement are needed for many patients and families even in the context of publicly funded healthcare systems. IMPLICATIONS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS: Survivors need to be informed early in their cancer experience about the potential financial burden associated with cancer treatment and its impact on survivors and their family members.
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