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Lower Incomes Increase Cancer Worry, Anxiety During Pandemic

MONDAY, April 26, 2021 -- Lower annual income is associated with increased cancer worry and anxiety among Medicaid-insured women receiving gynecologic oncology care during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online April 26 in Cancer.

Y. Stefanie Chen, M.D., from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and colleagues interviewed 100 Medicaid-insured women who were receiving gynecologic oncology care at two affiliated centers between March 15 and April 15, 2020. Modified, validated surveys were used to assess financial toxicity, anxiety, and cancer worry.

The researchers observed associations for a change in employment status and early-stage cancer (stage I and II) with an increase in financial distress. Significant associations were seen for early-stage cancer and telehealth participation with increased worry about future finances. There was an association noted for lower annual income (<$40,000) versus higher annual income (>$40,000) with increased cancer worry and anxiety. A delay in medical care resulted in a fourfold increased rate of anxiety when controlling for telehealth participation, income, primary language, and residence in a high COVID-19 prevalence area. There was no significant association observed for race with increased financial distress, cancer worry, or anxiety.

"Patients with low income may struggle to prioritize cancer care and treatments over other costs of daily living, especially when they face changes in employment not only due to their cancer diagnosis but also due to the changes in the job market caused by the pandemic," Chen said in a statement.

One author disclosed financial ties to Johnson & Johnson and Fujirebio Diagnostics.

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