Minnesota researchers work to calculate the true costs of cancer

February 25, 2019 10:27 PM

Researchers in Minnesota are recruiting patients to discuss their finances while they battle treatment, in an effort to calculate the true costs of cancers.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS sat down with Jill Husen in her doctor's office, next to her chemo chair and at her kitchen table.

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Husen, of Columbia Heights, revealed how her treatment for colon cancer financially impacts her home, her job, her family and their future.

"It's a process you know?," Husen said as a nurse prepared her chemo treatment. "It kind of takes over your world."

Husen receives chemotherapy every two weeks.

"With the winter, it gets dark," Husen said. "November was just awful. I was run down physically, emotionally."

Husen's world changed Nov. 3, 2017 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer.

"As a nurse…I just kind of…you know your soul just drops," she said.

"There's an impact on the patient's whole life," said Pam Pawloski, a research investigator with HealthPartners.

Pawloski is recruiting patients, like Husen, to participate in a study by the Metro-Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium. So far, they've recruited 69 patients who have shared intimate details of their finances.

"We are looking at other costs that are associated with just the day-to-day experience of going through this treatment or going through their disease," Pawloski said.

Pawloski said the study will lay important groundwork to better help future patients understand major financial strains with transparency of costs, the ability to offer counseling and advanced planning for drug assistance programs.

The Association of Community Cancer Centers found in 2018 that nearly 40 percent of providers are "very concerned" that cancer patients are refusing treatments because of financial worries.

Studies show nearly one out of 10 cancer patients either forego medical care or avoid filling prescription medication. Additionally, cancer survivors who experience the greatest financial hardship are in the working-age population, like Husen.

"It's a big rollercoaster, but she's still here and I love her for it," Vance Husen, Jill's husband, said.

"I just feel very blessed," Jill Husen said. "There's people who don't have family. They have to go through it alone. So it just makes you feel good…and if they can make me laugh, that's all I ask."

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Jackie Cain

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