On March 6, researchers led by Lorraine T. Dean, ScD, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology, published a study in the journal Cancer, that offered nine recommendations on how to lower the long-term breast cancer-related economic burden for U.S. breast cancer survivors. What is special about this study is it takes the recommendations from the patients themselves, rather than only focusing on provider and insurer perspectives.

The recommendations range from assistance in understanding coverage, expanding coverage for lymphedema-specific supplies and treatment, expanding availability of services, providing domestic assistance (including house chores, child care and transportation), and expanding eligibility for financial aid beyond those in poverty. Lymphedema is the swelling of the arms or torso commonly caused by the removal of the lymph nodes during breast cancer surgery.

Previous studies on U.S. cancer patients have shown that breast cancer patients have considerably higher economic burdens compared to those with other types of cancers. The extra costs often deal with the treatments’ side effects, particularly lymphedema, which affects nearly 35 percent of U.S. breast cancer survivors. Survivors with lymphedema experience over $14,500 more in out-of-pocket costs than survivors who do not develop the side effect.