Caring for a husband or wife with cancer significantly diminishes family income, according to researchers from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, who tracked changes in employment and income among working-age couples in Canada.

By matching tax returns with health data from Canada, co-researcher Vincent Pohl, assistant professor of economics at UGA, was able to determine that a spousal cancer diagnosis results in a decline in household income by 5 percent among men and 9 percent among women, on average.

“The average annual household income for the working-age couples we studied was about $100,000, so the loss of income per family is about $5,000 to $9,000, which is a pretty substantial decline,” he said. “In a situation where one household member has a devastating diagnosis, it leads to the whole household suffering economically.”

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: The cost of cancer to patients and their families is a very important topic. In our current health care climate, the expectation is that “insurance will pay for it” or “the government will pay for it.” With the rising costs of many medications and therapies used in cancer treatment, the out-of-pocket cost per patient will continue to increase. Although this study examined patient costs in Canada, it did not look at the significant wait time to get necessary treatments. All of my Canadian patients who come to the United States to see me express significant frustration with the long wait to receive treatment in Canada, whether it be surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Although the wait times in the United States are much less, the out-of-pocket costs for patients are much more. This is only going to get worse.