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Skipping Infant Brain Cancer Screen Saved Money

Evidence later showed neuroblastoma test didn't save lives, researchers add

TUESDAY, Aug. 2, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The United States and Canada saved hundreds of millions of dollars and avoided unnecessary treatments for thousands of children because the two countries did not implement a neuroblastoma screening program between 1989 and 2002, a Canadian study has found.

The report concluded that the two countries saved $574.1 million in health costs, avoided unnecessary treatment of more than 9,200 children, and also avoided false-positive findings of neuroblastoma in more than 5,000 children.

In the mid-1980s, there was a great deal of discussion about screening newborn babies for neuroblastoma, a common form of cancer in infants.

However, before implementing such screening, officials wanted to assess whether the screening would actually reduce the number of deaths caused by neuroblastoma. Research eventually showed the screening would not reduce such deaths.

This study, published in the Aug. 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, emphasized the importance of conducting evaluations of new health interventions to determine if they're effective or not. Identifying ineffective health interventions can save money and prevent adverse effects, the study authors said.

However, they also noted that these evaluations can be costly and take a long time, which may delay patient access to beneficial health interventions.

"This case study shows that well-designed evaluations can yield substantial benefits relative to their burdens," the study authors wrote. "This raises an important policy issue: are these evaluations now being under- or overused? ... If they are being underused, our ... results warn that the adverse health effects and wasteful health spending caused by the use of ineffective health services could be substantial."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about neuroblastoma

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Aug. 2, 2005
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