FEB 17, 2022 3:00 AM PST

Housing Insecurity Impedes Care of Cancer Survivors

WRITTEN BY: Katie Kokolus

A cancer diagnosis is something that no one wants.  We associate many burdens with cancer, such as enduring complex treatments, bearing cancer-related pain and discomfort, experiencing treatment-related side effects.  However, many cancer survivors face additional afflictions that remain unrecognized by both public and healthcare communities.  These factors often include financial stress and insecurity. 

In order to afford cancer-related medical costs, some cancer patients may fall behind on paying bills and debts on time. When the inability to pay for housing occurs, patients face housing insecurity, linked to increased odds of poor health and decreased access to healthcare. Understanding how these factors impact a particular patient could significantly enhance cancer survivorship.  

A new study published in the Journal of Cancer Policy explored the impact of housing insecurity on cancer patients and cancer survivors.  The research team utilized data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a national survey collection service.  BRFSS was established in 1984 when it surveyed 15 states.  Today, BRFSS interviews people in all 50 states, Washington DC, and three US territories.  BRFSS surveyors collect data regarding health-related behaviors, chronic health conditions, and the use of preventive medical services.

The study found that over 16% of cancer survivors faced moderate to increased levels of housing insecurity.  When examining socioeconomic factors in relation to housing insecurity, the researchers found that the intensity of housing security was higher in Black cancer survivors.  Further, those with lower household income and levels of education had a higher likelihood of housing insecurity. 

The authors conclude that interventions to address housing security are necessary to ensure the highest quality cancer care.  They suggest that oncologists and physicians screen cancer patients, especially those with lower socioeconomic status, for housing insecurity.  Patients identified to have unstable housing could then be referred to resources to assist with their housing and financial needs. 


Sources: Health Serv Res, J Can Policy


About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
I received a PhD in Tumor Immunology from SUNY Buffalo and BS and MS degrees from Duquesne University. I also completed a postdoc fellowship at the Penn State College of Medicine. I am interested in developing novel strategies to improve the efficacy of immunotherapies used to extend cancer survivorship.
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