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Published on November 12, 2019

The National Cancer Institute has awarded a four-year, more than $1.87  million  grant  to University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers to study the impact of implementing financial navigation services at five rural cancer centers in North Carolina to help patients cope with the financial burden, or financial toxicity, related to cancer care.

Building on pilot studies launched at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, UNC Lineberger's Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, MPH, and Donald Rosenstein, MD, will use the grant to connect cancer patients with potential financial support resources in Carteret, Dare, Jackson, Lenoir, and Nash counties.

"Our intervention addresses the financial difficulties that so many cancer patients face: How do you afford cancer treatment? How do you make sense of your insurance and understand your out-of-pocket cost responsibility?" said Wheeler, who is a professor in the UNC Gillings School

of Global Public Health. "What government programs might you be eligible for, how do you get insurance if you're uninsured, and what other assistance programs are there that you can tap into while going through cancer treatment?"

The study is an extension of an on-going investigation by UNC Lineberger researchers into the cost that cancer care places on patients through the direct costs associated with treatment, lost income or wages, the psychological burden associated with high-cost care as well as potentially harmful behavioral strategies that patients might use to cope with costs, such as skipping treatment. Collectively, researchers refer to this impact as financial toxicity.

More than 30 percent of survivors experience financial problems associated with cancer, according to a 2013 study from the National Cancer Institute and published in the journal Cancer. Other studies have shown that black women and patients in rural areas are disproportionately affected, including work conducted by Wheeler and colleagues through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Cancer Prevention and Control