Economic Distress of Breast Cancer Patients Seeking Treatment at a Tertiary Cancer Center in Mumbai during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cohort Study

Document Type: Research Articles

Authors

1 Tata Memorial Center, Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai, India.

2 International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, India.

Abstract

Background: Cancer treatment during nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has posed several challenges in the delivery of cancer care and carries tremendous potential sequel of impoverishing the households. This study aims to examine the economic distress faced by breast cancer patients receiving treatment at Tata Memorial Center (TMC) Mumbai, India during the nationwide lockdown initiated in March 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19. Methods: A total of 138 non-metastatic breast cancer patients who were accrued in this study at TMC before imposing of lockdown, and their treatment was impacted because of the COVID-19 outbreak, were interviewed. Telephonic interviews were conducted using a structured schedule which contained information on household and demographic characteristics of the patients, knowledge about COVID-19, their daily expenditure for treatment, difficulties faced during lockdown and how they met expenditures. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were used in the analyses. Results: The average monthly expenditure of cancer patients had increased by 32% during the COVID-19 period while the mean monthly household income was reduced by a quarter. More than two-thirds of the patients had no income during the lockdown. More than half of the patients met their expenditure by borrowing money, 30% of the patients used their savings, 28% got charity and 25% used household income. About 81% of the patients had reported shortage of money, 32%  reported shortage of food and 28% reported shortage of medicine. The distress financing was significantly higher among patients receiving treatment in Mumbai compared to those receiving treatment at their native cities (67% vs. 46%), patients under 40 years of age, illiterate, currently married, Muslim and staying at a rented house. Conclusion: The incremental expenditure coupled with reduced or no income due to the closure of economic activities in the country imposed severe financial stress on breast cancer patients.

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