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Cancer Care Costs Higher in U.S. Than Europe, But Survival Longer
Date:4/9/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- The United States spends more on health care than any other country, but those high costs may be paying off in cancer survival, a new report suggests.

U.S. cancer patients often live almost two years longer than similar patients in Europe, arguing for the dollar value of care given, researchers say.

However, Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer and executive vice president at the American Cancer Society, who was not involved in the study, said that "this paper has a huge fatal flaw in it."

"When you look at survival from time of diagnosis to time of death and you have a screened population that has a lot of diagnoses, you're filling that population with people who don't need treatment and because they are over-diagnosed, they have very long survival," he added.

These researchers attribute increased survival to the treatment, when it is really over-diagnosis, Brawley said. "So they are looking at a bunch of wasted, unnecessary treatment and then saying it was money well spent," he said.

"You don't look at survival rates -- this is a classic misuse of survival rates," Brawley said. "You have to look at death rates for each disease and not survival rates. The measurement should not be expense versus survival -- it should be expense versus mortality rate."

On that scale, the United States does well for some cancers and as well as they do in most of Europe for others, he said. "Mortality rates for breast and colon cancer are close to the mortality rates in Europe, but that may include the effect of over-treatment," Brawley said.

The report was published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

For the study, Tomas Philipson, the chair in public policy at the University of Chicago, and colleagues looked at cancer care in the United States and in 10 European countries from 1983 to 1999.

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