Cancer Costs Billions in Terms of Patients' Lost Time

Study puts price tag on time spent traveling to, waiting for and receiving cancer care

THURSDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- In addition to direct monetary medical costs of cancer, the overall cost of patients' time spent traveling back and forth, waiting for appointments and having treatments for cancer was $2.3 billion in the first year after diagnosis in 2005, according to a study in the Jan. 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which attempts to put a price tag on the time associated with getting treatment.

K. Robin Yabroff, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues quantified the time costs associated with cancer care for 11 types of cancer in patients 65 and older.

During the first year after diagnosis, net patient time costs were $271 for melanoma, $842 for prostate cancer, $5,348 for gastric cancer and $5,605 for ovarian cancer. During the last year of life, net patient time costs ranged from $1,509 for melanoma to $7,799 for gastric cancer, $7,435 for lung cancer and $7,388 for ovarian cancer.

Although the new study does not include the costs of emotional suffering, it "helps us to view a little described part of the 'forest' of the overall costs of cancer," Larry G. Kessler, Sc.D., of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Rockville, Md., and Scott D. Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, write in an accompanying editorial.

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