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Spending more for lung cancer treatment did not substantially increase patients’ lives

Public release date: 22-Oct-2007

A new study finds that survival for elderly patients with lung cancer has changed little despite large increases in healthcare expenditures for lung cancer treatment. The study by Harvard University, National Cancer Institute, and National Bureau of Economic Research researchers, published in the December 1, 2007 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, finds that average life-expectancy rose by less than one month between 1983 and 1997, while costs rose by over $20,000 per patient

The U.S. spends more than five billion dollars a year on detection, determining the disease severity, and treatment of lung cancer. This is a significant increase over the last few decades, mirroring similar increases in general healthcare spending over the same period. The one-year survival rate for lung cancer has increased slightly, from 37 percent in 1975-1979 to 42 percent in 2002, largely due to improvements in surgical techniques and combined therapies. However the five-year survival rate for all stages of lung cancer combined has remained relatively stable, and is currently only about 16 percent.

Cost-effectiveness, as measured by the cost of an additional year of life gained, was poor, with a high average cost of $403,142. While early stage cancer treatment was more cost-effective by conventional standards than treatments for advanced disease, the gains still were limited. When analyzed by disease severity, the cost per additional year gained for local and regional disease was $143,614 and 145,861, respectively. For metastatic cancer, the cost per additional year gained was $1,190,322.

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