The time that cancer patients nationwide spend when they travel to, wait for and receive inpatient and outpatient treatment costs an estimated $2.3 billion in the first year after diagnosis, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
For the study, National Cancer Institute epidemiologist Robin Yabroff and colleagues examined the records of 763,000 Medicare beneficiaries with cancer. Researchers estimated the time that participants spent on treatment and compared the results with the time spent by one million Medicare beneficiaries without cancer. Researchers assigned a monetary value to the time that participants spent on treatment -- $15.23 per hour, the median U.S. wage range in 2002 -- and estimated the nationwide cost based on the number of patients diagnosed with cancer in 2005. According to the study, participants with ovarian cancer spent 368 hours on treatment in the first year after diagnosis. Participants with lung cancer spent 272 hours on treatment in the first year after diagnosis, and those with kidney cancer spent 193 hours, the study found. The study also found that participants with cancers often diagnosed early spent less time on treatment. Participants with prostate cancer spent 55.3 hours on treatment in the first year after diagnosis, and those with breast cancer spent 66.2 hours, according to the study (Neergaard, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/2). The results of the study do not include the time that participants spent on recovery from treatment, researchers said (Washington Post, 1/3).
Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society said the study indicates that research into early detection of cancer "has real benefits." He added, "Cancer is more than the just the dollars and cents for the medicines and the treatments and the doctors. It's also the lost opportunities for the patients." In an editorial that accompanied the study, Larry Kessler of FDA and Scott Ramsey of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center wrote, "What we see here is a measure of the patient's burden of commitment." They added that the study highlights the importance of "targeted" treatments with fewer side effects (AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/2).
An abstract of the study is available online.