Cost of Cancer Care Expected to Skyrocket in Next Decade

The U.S. sticker price for cancer care by 2020 will likely increase at least 27% over the next decade, to a minimum $158 billion yearly by 2020, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Colorectal cancer ranks 2nd behind breast cancer in 2010 total costs of care by cancer type, and will remain one of the top 5 most costly cancers in 2020.

Projections of the Cost of Cancer Care in the United States: 2010–2020

Those are just two of many facts in an important paper published in the Jan. 19 Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The predicted costs are much higher than previous estimates because the authors used the most current cost data (2006 Medicare) which, for the first time, includes costs of expensive targeted treatments.

The study is powerful because it analyzed different scenarios and assumptions, and broke down costs of three stages of care (initial and final years, and middle years of continuing care) for each type of cancer.

By far, the most important cause of rising costs will be the aging of the U.S. population. Changes in either incidence (the numbers diagnosed) or improved survival will have a much smaller impact over the next 10 years than the aging Boomer bubble. Currently in the U.S., there are about 14 million survivors (58% over age 64). In 10 years, there will more than 18 million survivors, with the largest increase among seniors.

“The rising costs of cancer care illustrate how important it is for us to advance the science of cancer prevention and treatment to ensure that we’re using the most effective approaches,” said Robert Croyle, PHD, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control.

In 2010, total cancer care cost an estimated $125 million, with highest cost associated with breast cancer ($16.5 billion), followed by colorectal cancer ($14 billion), and then lymphoma, lung and prostate cancer at $12 billion each. (Note, these figures do not include screening and prevention costs.)

Other facts:

  • For most types of cancer, the number of new diagnoses (incidence) is dropping: The highest decreases are seen in lung and colorectal cancers in men estimated at about 2% fewer cases per year.
  • Survival also is improving for most cancers, especially for prostate cancer, melanoma and breast cancer. Currently, there are about 1.2 million colorectal cancer survivors in the U.S. (4th highest after breast, prostate, and melanoma survivors), with that pattern expected to continue in 2020.
  • Currently for colorectal cancer, 42% of costs of care occur the first year; 28% of costs occur during the continuing phase; and30% of total colorectal cancer costs are spent in the last year of life.

Read the complete study here.
SOURCE: Mariotto et al, Journal of National Cancer Institute, Volume 103, Number 2, pages 117-128, January 19,2011.

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