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Cancer Costs Increasing Due to More Treatment

More elderly patients receiving surgery and adjuvant treatment

WEDNESDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- The costs associated with treating cancer in the elderly have largely increased due to more patients receiving surgery and adjuvant treatment, and rising prices for these therapies, researchers report in the June 18 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Joan L. Warren, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues examined changes in the costs of cancer treatment using data from 306,709 individuals aged 65 years or older diagnosed with breast, lung, colorectal or prostate cancer from 1991-2002. Costs were assessed for care from two months before diagnosis to one year after diagnosis.

The researchers found that the cost of treatment per patient increased for lung cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer in 2002 compared with 1991, corresponding to inflation-adjusted increases of $7,139, $5,345 and $4,189, respectively. The cost of prostate cancer treatment fell by $196 over the same period. Hospitalization accounted for the largest portion of costs, while the use of chemotherapy and radiation (except for colorectal cancers) increased, the report indicates. The authors note that total Medicare payments for these four cancers exceeded $6.7 billion in 2002, with colorectal and lung cancers being the most costly.

"Without planning for the future, paying for care for Medicare beneficiaries with cancer will be a major component of the spiraling costs of care faced by the Medicare program," Warren and colleagues conclude.

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