NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Economic Consequences Of Surviving Breast Cancer

June 19, 2001

Two million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the next five years. The number of survivors is growing thanks to medical advances and early detection, but the economic consequences to providers, taxpayers and survivors is uncertain. To better understand the economic dynamics of breast cancer, the Moffitt Research Institute plans to study whether or not long-term breast cancer survivors incur significant economic losses relative to average women, and whether or not there is discrimination against survivors in the labor market.

A National Cancer Institute study suggested the direct costs (medical and other health care services) for breast cancer totaled $7 billion in 1990. That is just one-third the estimated indirect costs from the lost economic contribution of breast cancer patients, lost economic activities by the entire family, etc. Newer estimates are unavailable.

  • The reduced number of deaths has lowered direct expenses and prevented the loss of survivors' future economic contributions.
  • However, the lengthening period of breast cancer survival may increase the risk of adverse economic consequences due to reduced work effort, diminished earning capacity, and economic adjustments required of family members.
  • Researchers believe wider screening and earlier diagnoses -- which have lowered the median age of breast cancer patients into the peak years of marketplace participation for women -- may have had a significant negative economic impact.
  • Finally, research shows that individuals with chronic health conditions, which may include long-term breast cancer patients, are more likely to reduce work effort, earn less per hour, and experience household changes in work patterns that result in poorer work conditions.

Many papers claim to have found out-right discrimination against breast cancer survivors -- but the question is whether or not poorer work conditions, particularly reduced medical insurance coverage, is simply a result of diminished functional capabilities.

Source: Thomas N. Chirikos, Ph.D., "Economic Impact of the Growing Population of Breast Cancer Survivors," Journal of the Moffitt Cancer Center, March/April 2001, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, 12902 Magnolia Drive, Tampa, Florida, 33612, (813) 972-8410.


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