Soaring Cost of Cancer Care Expected

January 17, 2011
Lisa Schulmeister

A 39% increase in the cost of care will likely occur over the next 10 years.

Researchers in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences a the National Cancer Institute released their estimations of the cost of cancer care for the upcoming decade. They first estimated cancer prevalence (calculated using incidence and survival models) by phase of care for men with 13 types of cancer and women with 16 types of cancer. Phase of care was broken down into three categories: first year following diagnosis of cancer, continuing care, and care in last year of life. Net costs of care were estimated from Medicare claims data for patients 65 and older with a cancer diagnosis.

The researchers projected 13.8 million cancer survivors in 2010 and 18.1 million cancer survivors in 2020, with associated costs of cancer care of $124.57 and $157.77 billion. These numbers reflect the increase in the cancer population and does not take into account increases in costs of care. If costs of care increase annually by 2% in the initial and last year of life phases of care, the total cost of cancer care in 2020 is projected to be $173 billion, which represents a 39% increase from 2010.

The researchers noted that these findings have implications for policy makers. However, they also have implications for those of us who are clinicians and are providing care. Patients with supplemental Medicare coverage must pay insurance premiums and often are responsible for co-payments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses. As the cost of care escalates, so does the bottom line cost to patients. Older Americans are already stretched economically, so they are likely to feel the effects of the increased costs of cancer care.


Mariotto AB, Yabroff KR, Shao Y, Feuer EJ, Brown ML. Projections of the cost of cancer care in the United States; 2010-2020. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011;103:117-128.