The national costs of cancer care in the United States in 2015 are estimated to have been about $183 billion, according to a new study. Based on population growth, these costs are projected to increase by more than one-third to $246 billion by 2030.
“The national medical care costs associated with cancer survivorship in the United States in 2015 are substantial and projected to increase dramatically by 2030, due to population changes alone,” the researchers wrote. “National projections can inform resource prioritization and planning at local, state, and national levels.”
The study looked at cancer survivors aged 65 or older from the SEER-Medicare database; survivors were diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2012. Claims from 2007 to 2013 were used to estimate costs by cancer site, phases of care, and stage at diagnosis.
Broken down by cancer phase of care, the highest costs were associated with end-of-life cancer death, with medical care annualized to $105,500 and oral prescription drugs costing $4200. Next was the initial phase of care at $41,800 and $1,800 for medical care and prescription drugs, respectively, and then the continuing phase of care at $5300 for medical care and $1100 for prescription drugs.
The researchers found considerable variation in costs by stage of cancer and cancer site. For example, end-of-life care for prostate cancer was annualized to $71,000 per year compared with $239,000 per year for acute myeloid leukemia. For the initial phase of care, costs ranged from $183,000 for AML to $8000 for melanoma.
In general, the researchers found higher costs for patients diagnosed with distant stage disease. However, some exceptions existed for pancreatic, esophageal, or stomach cancers where initial costs were higher in patients with regional stage disease.
The researchers acknowledged that “treatment patterns have been changing rapidly for many cancer and estimates may not fully reflect patterns and costs in 2020.”
Mariotto AB, Enewold L, Zhao J, et al. Medical care costs associated with cancer survivorship in the United States [published online June 10, 2020]. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-19-1534