Background Evidence to guide policymakers in developing affordable and equitable cancer control plans are scarce in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Methods The 2012–2014 ASEAN Costs in Oncology Study prospectively followed-up 9513 newly diagnosed cancer patients from eight LMIC in Southeast Asia for 12 months. Overall and country-specific incidence of financial catastrophe (out-of-pocket health costs ≥ 30% of annual household income), economic hardship (inability to make necessary household payments), poverty (living below national poverty line), and all-cause mortality were determined. Stepwise multinomial regression was used to estimate the extent to which health insurance, cancer stage and treatment explained these outcomes. Results The one-year incidence of mortality (12% in Malaysia to 45% in Myanmar) and financial catastrophe (24% in Thailand to 68% in Vietnam) were high. Economic hardship was reported by a third of families, including inability to pay for medicines (45%), mortgages (18%) and utilities (12%), with 28% taking personal loans, and 20% selling assets (not mutually exclusive). Out of households that initially reported incomes above the national poverty levels, 4·9% were pushed into poverty at one year. The adverse economic outcomes in this study were mainly attributed to medical costs for inpatient/outpatient care, and purchase of drugs and medical supplies. In all the countries, cancer stage largely explained the risk of adverse outcomes. Stage-stratified analysis however showed that low-income patients remained vulnerable to adverse outcomes even when diagnosed with earlier cancer stages. Conclusion The LMIC need to realign their focus on early detection of cancer and provision of affordable cancer care, while ensuring adequate financial risk protection, particularly for the poor.
- Economic hardship
- Financial catastrophe
- Low- and middle-income countries