Cancer survivors face steep costs

Even after the disease is treated, cancer survivors face high medical costs and are often hindered by a loss in productivity, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Female cancer survivors have mean annual medical expenditures of $8,412, more than $3,000 higher than annual expenses for women without a cancer history. Male cancer survivors had slightly lower annual medical expenditures than female survivors, at $8,091, but their cost differential when compared to medical expenses by men without a history of cancer was higher, at $4,187.

“Cancer survivors face many challenges with medical care follow-up, managing the long-term and late effects of treatments, monitoring for recurrence, and an increased risk for additional cancers,” wrote report authors Donatus U. Ekwueme, PhD, of the division of cancer prevention and control at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in Atlanta, and colleagues. “These survivors also face economic challenges, including limitations in work and daily activities, obtaining health insurance coverage and accessing health care, and increasing medical care costs.”

The findings were published as part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and were based on an analysis of data from the 2008-2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Annual productivity loss among cancer survivors was $4,033 and $3,719 for women and men, respectively, with employment disability accounting for roughly three-quarters of productivity loss.

Ekwueme and colleagues underscored the importance of understanding how a history of cancer affects costs by pointing out the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. has risen dramatically thanks to better treatments and early detection through advanced imaging. The number of people in the U.S. with a history of cancer grew from 3 million in 1971 to 13.4 million in 2012, and is projected to increase to 18 million over the next decade.

“These findings suggest the need to develop and evaluate health and employment intervention programs aimed at improving outcomes for cancer survivors and their families,” wrote Ekwueme and colleagues.