More Expensive Breast Cancer Treatment Linked with Better Survival

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More expensive breast cancer treatments are linked to a greater chance of survival.
More expensive breast cancer treatments are linked to a greater chance of survival.

More expensive breast cancer treatments are linked to a greater chance of survival, new research suggests. The study was published in Health Affairs.

"Our findings indicate that in some instances, newer and costlier approaches may be leading to improved outcomes in breast cancer patients," senior author Cary Gross, M.D., director of Yale University's Cancer Outcomes Public Policy and Effectiveness Research Center in New Haven, Conn., said in a university news release.

"Now we need to tackle the harder questions about what we can afford to pay, and find out which treatments are effective for each patient."

In conducting the study, the researchers looked at the Medicare billing records of 9,708 women across the United States. The women were between 67 and 94 years old.

They all had stage 2 or 3 breast cancer. The researchers looked for trends in the women's treatment costs and survival rates between 1994 and 1996, and compared them to trends from 2004 and 2006.

The researchers found that the costs for treating women with stage 3 breast cancer jumped from $18,100 to roughly $32,600.

RELATED: Classifying Breast Cancer Subtype May Improve Risk Stratification

Meanwhile, the five-year survival rate for these women improved from 38.5 to 52 percent. Treatment for women with stage 2 breast cancer increased by more than 40 percent.

The average cost for treatment was $12,300 in 1996 and $17,400 in 2006, according to the researchers. Five-year survival rates for these women also improved, though more modestly, from 68 to 72.5 percent.

Gross said that the rising costs stemmed largely from big increases in the cost of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


  1. Feinstien, Aaron J., et al. "Older Women With Localized Breast Cancer: Costs And Survival Rates Increased Across Two Time Periods." Health Affairs. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2014.1119. April 2015.

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