To estimate the cost of cancer care in the U.S., Robin Yabroff, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) and SEER-linked Medicare files to identify 718,907 cancer patients and 1,623,651 control subjects without cancer. The team subtracted the Medicare expenses for matched control subjects from the Medicare expenses for individuals diagnosed with cancer. The balance was the estimated net cost of cancer care per individual.
The mean net five-year costs of care for elderly individuals varied widely, from less than $20,000 for patients with breast cancer or melanoma to more than $40,000 for patients with lymphoma, brain or other nervous system cancers, or cancers of the esophagus, ovaries, or stomach. Across all cancers, mean net costs were highest in the first twelve months of care and the last twelve months of life, and lowest in the period between the initial phase of care and last year of life.
Yabroff and colleagues note that the study does not evaluate the cost of care in younger cancer patients. As these individuals frequently opt for more aggressive therapies, the cost of services may differ from those reported here. Additionally, as newer, more expensive therapies become routine care, the costs could climb.
Despite these limitations, "these estimates represent a basis for projections of cancer costs that will be particularly important with the growth and aging of the U.S. population," the authors write. Yabroff and colleagues' choice to analyze cost based on the phase of patient care - initial twelve months, continuing care, and last year of life - means that long-term projections are possible.
MEDICA.de; Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute