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Hairy Cell Leukemia Diagnosis Affects Finances, Lifestyle

Hairy Cell Leukemia Diagnosis Affects Finances, Lifestyle

While patients who are cured from cancer can expect to lead long and
productive lives, we do not know the extent to which a diagnosis of cancer
affects employability, insurability, and lifestyle of individuals with
long-term survival.

Hairy cell leukemia is a rare lymphoproliferative disorder; 75% to 90% of
affected individuals achieve a long-term remission following chemotherapy with
cladribine (Leustatin).[1-3] Hairy cell leukemia patients who achieve remission
are believed to have a life expectancy similar to that of the general
population.

We investigated the effects of this cancer diagnosis on finances, life and
health insurance, employment, and lifestyle in hairy cell leukemia patients
with a long-term remission.

Introductory letters were mailed to all patients who had been treated by a
specialist in the Chicago area: 31 of the 34 patients who signed a consent form
completed the questionnaire.

The survey included questions regarding sociodemographic characteristics
(age, years since diagnosis, marital status, educational level, race/ethnicity,
employment status, and income); health insurance (provider type, changes in
premium, yearly deductible, copayments, etc); life insurance history (policy
holdings prior to and after diagnosis with hairy cell leukemia); and changes in
lifestyle habits (use of vitamins, alternative medicine practitioner,
psychological counselor).

The mean age at the time of the survey for the 31 respondents was 56.6 years
(range, 27 to 82).[4] The mean age of diagnosis was 48.7 years (range, 24 to
73). All but one of the patients identified themselves as white; one patient
did not indicate his ethnicity. The majority of the respondents were married
(87.1%).

Overall, the participants were well educated, with 65% reporting having
earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 100% at least a high school
diploma. Half were employed at the time of the survey, while 37% were retired
and 13% were unemployed; 79% reported having an annual income of $50,000 or
more.

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