NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

CANCER'S SILENT TOLL: TIME LOST TO GET MEDICAL CARE

January 4, 2007

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 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 

For the study, National Cancer Institute epidemiologist Robin Yabroff and colleagues examined the records of 763,000 Medicare beneficiaries with cancer and 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. 

  • The researchers found that 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.
  • 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.

The results of the study do not include the time that participants spent on recovery from treatment, researchers said.

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." 

Source: Lauran Neergaard, "Cancer's silent toll: Time lost to get medical care," Chicago Tribune, January 3, 2007; based upon: K. Robin Yabroff et al., "Patient Time Costs Associated With Cancer Care," Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 99, Number 1, January 3, 2007.

For study text:

http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/99/1/14

 

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