Is Financial Toxicity Adding to Your Patients’ Distress? Here’s How You Can Help.

April 3, 2024
A female doctor in a white coat shows a male patient information on a tablet screen

Stock photo posed by models, sourced by Getty Images

In February 2023, the White House Cancer Moonshot established CancerX, a public-private partnership, to boost innovation in the fight against cancer. One of the main goals of CancerX is to reduce the burden of cancer through digital innovation. Here’s why patient distress screening for financial toxicity is one solution you’ll want to consider.


Cancer Support Community has been a part of the CancerX initiative since the beginning, including serving on its steering committee. It’s a natural fit. CancerX aims, among other things, to advance digital innovation in oncology and implement digital solutions that reduce the burden of cancer for all people.1 At CSC, our mission is to uplift and strengthen people impacted by cancer. Our vision is that everyone impacted by this lifechanging disease receives the support they want and need throughout their experience.  

One way we are working to support that vision is through our digital mental health assessment and referral platform, MyCareReport. Screening for psychosocial distress can quickly identify patients’ unmet needs, and the MyCareReport platform automates connection to the support they need.

The CancerX Solutions Catalog named MyCareReport as a solution for healthcare systems to improve patient cost and psychosocial outcomes. The catalog features fit-for purpose solutions designed to help institutions implement their digital strategy for improving equity in access to cancer treatment and reducing patient financial toxicity.  


The Impact of Financial Toxicity  

A cancer diagnosis can be extremely distressing. The burden of high healthcare costs can make the experience even more stressful. Financial toxicity is a term that refers to the out-of-pocket costs, lost wages, and debt faced by cancer patients as well as the distress caused by financial strain.

Even people who have health insurance can experience financial hardship when undergoing treatment for advanced cancer.2 Newer cancer treatments like targeted therapies and immunotherapies are costly. Patients may also have to leave work during treatment and recovery, causing further financial disruption and hardship.3 

Financial toxicity can negatively impact patients’ clinical outcomes, including their health-related quality of life. In CSC’s own research, we found that greater financial toxicity was associated with increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, and worse social functioning among individuals with triple negative breast cancer.4 More than half of individuals in our sample reported that their healthcare team did not discuss costs, impact on work, or financial distress with them.4

In a separate CSC study of 484 people with metastatic cancer, approximately half reported some degree of financial toxicity. These participants were more likely to report postponing medical visits, supportive care, and psychosocial support services compared to people who didn’t experience financial toxicity.3  

When distress goes unsupported, it doesn’t just impact clinical outcomes for patients. It can also have a negative financial impact on patients and institutions. Depressed cancer patients tend to have more emergency department visits and inpatient hospital admissions, and cancer patients with mental health diagnoses have higher healthcare costs.5  


How Can Distress Screening Help? 

Mental health screening, and subsequent referral to the right support services, helps ensure that patients receive the care they need before their distress potentially advances. In this way, distress screening also promotes a shift from higher cost emergency care to lower cost nonemergent and preventive care.5  

This was the case at Orlando Health Cancer Institute in Florida. Patients who completed our distress screening program, CancerSupportSource, and then used CSC’s follow-up supportive care services at Orlando Health within one year of screening, had 50% fewer emergency department visits. They were also more likely to access integrative medicine department services, patient and family counseling, and financial counseling.5,6


Our research-backed technology makes mental health distress screening easy, cost-effective, and an added benefit for patients and medical providers.


Our MyCareReport platform makes it possible for providers to quickly and efficiently identify patients who have clinically indicated levels of distress or specific unmet health-related social needs. This includes helping to identify 1) patients with needs related to financial toxicity and access, and 2) identifying digital tools and pathways to decrease financial toxicity for those patients.

The MyCareReport platform houses multiple screeners. Two screeners that specifically address issues related to financial toxicity are:

  • CancerSupportSource, a reliable, validated, multidimensional distress screening tool
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)’s screener for Health-Related Social Needs  

The screeners can be launched anywhere, including from the hospital or from home, and on computers, tablets, and phones. Patient-reported outcome measures are delivered digitally with automated referral, resource, and acuity capabilities. These and other features of the MyCareReport platform work to streamline clinical workflow, increase patient satisfaction, and bring the patient voice to the forefront of care team communication — helping to connect patients with the support they need.  

Interested in learning more about the benefits of MyCareReport? 


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  1. CancerX website
  2. Winstead, E. NIH National Cancer Institute. Even If Insured, People With Advanced Cancer Often Face Financial Problems. Jan. 26, 2022. website. 
  3. Mollica MA, Zaleta AK, Gallicchio L, et al. Financial toxicity among people with metastatic cancer: findings from the Cancer Experience Registry. Supportive Cancer Care.
  4. Doughtie K, Fortune EE, Badt H, et al. Experience of Financial Toxicity and Distress Among Individuals Diagnosed With Triple Negative Breast Cancer: Findings From the Cancer Experience Registry. Nov. 10, 2022.
  5. Cancer Support Community. Value of Distress Screening for Healthcare Utilization and Spending. Feb. 28, 2023.
  6. Miller M, Zaleta AK, Allen ML, et al. Impact of distress screening and referral on health care utilization and cost among breast cancer patients: a restrospective cohort study. 4(2):e070, April-June 2022. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology Research and Practice. DOI: 10.1097/OR9.0000000000000070