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Older Women With Localized Breast Cancer Costs And Survival Rates Increased Across Two Time Periods

Author: Aaron J. Feinstein, Jessica Long, Pamela R. Soulos, Xiaomei Ma, Jeph Herrin, Kevin D. Frick, Anees B. Chagpar, Harlan M. Krumholz, James B. Yu, Joseph S. Ross, Cary P. Gross
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Significant national attention has been paid to the rising costs of cancer care. However, few studies have evaluated the association between trends in costs and survival outcomes. We used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program–Medicare linked database to compare changes in costs and survival rates over time, among women ages 67–94 who were diagnosed with stage II or III breast cancer in 1994–96 or 2004–06. We found that median cancer-related costs increased from $12,335 to $17,396 among women with stage II disease, and from $18,107 to $32,598 among women with stage III disease. Although the median cost of breast surgery declined between the two study periods, the median cost of chemo- and radiation therapy increased substantially, leading to an overall rise in cancer-related costs. Meanwhile, adjusted overall five-year survival improved, from 67.8 percent to 72.5 percent for women with stage II disease and from 38.5 percent to 51.9 percent for those with stage III disease. These findings suggest that increases in cancer care costs have been accompanied by improved outcomes. Future work should identify opportunities to optimize efficiency in cancer care.

Significant national attention has been paid to the rising costs of cancer care. However, few studies have evaluated the association between trends in costs and survival outcomes. We used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program–Medicare linked database to compare changes in costs and survival rates over time, among women ages 67–94 who were diagnosed with stage II or III breast cancer in 1994–96 or 2004–06. We found that median cancer-related costs increased from $12,335 to $17,396 among women with stage II disease, and from $18,107 to $32,598 among women with stage III disease. Although the median cost of breast surgery declined between the two study periods, the median cost of chemo- and radiation therapy increased substantially, leading to an overall rise in cancer-related costs. Meanwhile, adjusted overall five-year survival improved, from 67.8 percent to 72.5 percent for women with stage II disease and from 38.5 percent to 51.9 percent for those with stage III disease. These findings suggest that increases in cancer care costs have been accompanied by improved outcomes. Future work should identify opportunities to optimize efficiency in cancer care.

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