Cancer Costs Estimated to Soar in Coming Decade, Mesothelioma Care is No Exception
According to a study conducted at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the cost of cancer care in the United States is expected to rise from an estimated $125 billion last year to $158 billion by the year 2020. The cancers were classified according to 16 cancer types including breast, colorectal and lung. The study was based on data through 2005, and while the NCI estimated 222,000 new cases of lung cancer in 2010 that is a 2.5% decline since 2005. According to some researchers, however, the incidence of mesothelioma has been slowly increasing in the United States with approximately 3,000 Americans diagnosed with the incurable cancer each year.
Mesothelioma Costs can be Substantial
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive respiratory cancer related to asbestos exposure. It is typically treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy drugs and radiation, with the patients bearing the financial burden that comes with fighting the cancer.
The cost of treatment for mesothelioma and other cancers can leave patients and their families deeply in debt. Patients are sometimes faced with having to end treatments early due to their mounting expenses. In fact, according to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, medical bills are responsible for close to 60 percent of personal bankruptcies in the United States – with 75 percent of those individuals having health insurance.
New Technologies May Lead to More Increases
The NCI researchers stated that the 27% increase in costs in 2020 reflects US population increases as the only change in trends; thus, assuming the increase in the costs associated with the care follows the trend reflected in the data. However, they indicated that “if costs of care increase annually by 2% in the initial and last year of life phases of care, the total cost in 2020 is projected to be $173 billion, which represents a 39% increase from 2010.”
The authors pointed out that “it is likely that new tools for diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of cancer patients will be developed and will be more expensive.” Although trends in costs associated with the use of targeted chemotherapies might be mitigated somewhat through the use of genomic based prognostic markers.
Researchers have made significant progress in the area of biomarkers, such as various discoveries allowing for early detection of mesothelioma. Most findings are not yet available to the public as companies seek methods to lower the costs of the test or therapy prior to releasing for general use.
The authors of the study concluded by urging policy makers to consider the implications of the rising medical costs during the “planning and allocation of resources.”
See the full report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.