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Medicare Costs for Cancer Treatment Soar
Date:6/10/2008

Increased expenses for chemotherapy may affect treatment decisions, expert says

TUESDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Costs for treating Medicare patients with cancer increased substantially from 1991 to 2002, researchers report.

The upward trend, seen with breast, lung and colorectal cancer in particular, reflects the fact that more patients are receiving radiation and chemotherapy, and those treatments are costing more. This may also influence what treatments doctors decide to use, one expert says.

"The U.S. population is getting older, and it's growing, so there will be more people with cancer, so the burden to the Medicare program is likely to increase," said study co-author Robin Yabroff, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

These costs are also increasing, because the Medicare program has expanded and includes more prescription drugs, Yabroff explained, noting that many of these newer drugs were not included in the current study.

"The cost of these new agents is going to have substantial impact on Medicare," Yabroff said. "The costs of cancer care are increasing, and there are changes in the types of care cancer patients are receiving. More breast, lung and colorectal cancer patients are receiving chemotherapy."

There are also changes in cancer surgery and radiation therapy, which may add to the Medicare bill, Yabroff noted.

The study is in the June 10 online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In the study, Yabroff's team collected data on 306,709 men and women aged 65 and older diagnosed with breast, lung, colorectal or prostate cancer between 1991 and 2002. These data were taken from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results (SEER) Medicare database.

The researchers compared costs of initial cancer treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other hospitalization. In 2002, the total
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