The Staggering Cost of Cancer

Tags: cancer, advances, radiation, patients, breakthroughs, treatment, therapy, mesothelioma, associated, success

Associated Press [AP]; Washington, DC - The “war on cancer” has waged on with considerable success – most notably, the increasing lifespan of cancer survivors over the past 20 years – but is not yet without some set backs. Through the “war,” many new cancer treatments, including advances in radiation and drug therapies, contributed to the success.

However, some of these advances do come with a hefty price.

What has happened is the cost of treating and caring for an individual with cancer has increased at a staggering pace, often pricing those who have do not have insurance or adequate coverage out completely.

Forbes analyzed a study produced by a Seattle-based firm, Milliman, that listed what “the 10 most expensive common medical conditions.” In this particular study, cancer came in at number 2 with an average cost per patient of $49,000. Compared to other conditions, cancer's ranking is quite low, but that number is deceiving. The rank does not include cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy or have surgery. For those patients, the average cost of treating their cancer jumps to $123,000.

The question is – why does cancer cost so much, especially since there has been many breakthroughs and advances?

Unfortunately, the answer is that the rising cost of cancer is because of the breakthroughs and advances.

New drugs cost much more than older drugs, and are often prescribed in combination with other medications because of cancer research.

Further, some “conventional” cancer treatments, including radiation, have had their own share of advances. Though it has not been thoroughly proven to be a more effective treatment than radiation for certain cancers, proton therapy is widely used. Proton therapy is considerably more expensive than radiation therapy.

All of the breakthroughs come at a price that patient and insurance alike are struggling to pay.

Even among the rarer forms of cancer – such as pleural mesothelioma – the price associated with treatment and care options leave many wondering if they will be able to afford survival. Though pleural mesothelioma is typically caused by an environmental toxin – exposure to loosened asbestos fibers, in the majority of cases – the treatment options available for mesothelioma patients are similar to those of more common forms of cancer: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

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