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(Drug information on 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). 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.