MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Matthew P. Banegas, PhD, MPH
Center for Health Research
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Despite a large body of research on cancer care costs, we observed a significant evidence gap. Namely, while about one-half of cancer diagnoses in the U.S. occur among people under age 65, it can be difficult to find good data on the costs of care for this population. That’s because most of the current literature on cancer care costs is based on SEER Medicare data, which are limited to Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries.
At a time of rising costs and an ever-increasing number of new therapies, we felt it was important to improve our understanding of cancer costs for U.S. adults of all ages. We examined medical care costs for the four most common types of cancer in the United States: breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer.
MedicalResearch.com: What were your main findings?
Response: We found that cancer care costs in the United States are generally higher for people under age 65. Costs tended to be highest for lung cancer and lowest for prostate cancer, and costs increased with advanced stage disease. For example, average total 1-year costs for lung cancer ranged from $50,700(stage I) to $97,400 (stage IV) among patients younger than 65, and from $44,000 (stage I) to $71,200 (stage IV) among patients aged 65 and older (reported in 2015 dollars and adjusted for inflation). Five-year costs followed the same pattern. In general, it was more expensive for lung and breast cancers than colorectal or prostate cancers, but care got more expensive in later stages for all types.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our findings about the high cost of cancer care for adults under 65 should be of great interest to multiple audiences—including researchers, oncology program leaders, health system policy-makers, and patients. We designed our paper to make the information about potential costs of cancer care highly accessible and relevant to these stakeholders.
Readers should also know that the costs of cancer care continue to rise. In the past decade, we have seen the introduction of many new, high-cost cancer therapies and other medical care technologies. These novel treatments, in addition to the overall rise in costs that we see in many areas of the U.S. health system, lead us to believe that the cost estimates in our study may, in fact, be quite conservative.
MedicalResearch.com: What is the significance of your findings to health care organizations?
Response: Health systems are under significant pressure to improve patient outcomes while also controlling costs. To do this, health systems need to make fiscally prudent, evidence-based investments in prevention and early detection of disease. By illuminating the high cost of cancer care for adults under 65—a group that is largely missing in many cost analyses—we’ve made an important contribution to this evidence base.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: We hope that researchers will use our estimates to improve the quality and breadth of cost analyses and comparative-effectiveness studies. Any effort to bend the cancer care cost curve must be informed by reliable data from multiple health settings and populations. Our study represents an important step in that direction and provides a strong example for future researchers to follow.
J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2018 Apr;16(4):402-410. doi: 10.6004/jnccn.2017.7065.
Banegas MP1, Yabroff KR1, O’Keeffe-Rosetti MC1, Ritzwoller DP1, Fishman PA1, Salloum RG1, Lafata JE1, Hornbrook MC
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