Cancer is a complex and serious disease, and the cost of treating it can be overwhelming. From highly trained medical professionals to expensive drugs, there are numerous factors that contribute to the high cost of cancer treatment. The process of moving findings from the lab to the patient's bedside is costly and time-consuming. This includes completing all regulatory studies, such as phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials, for approval.
Additionally, because most cancers are incurable, patients often receive treatment with each approved agent, creating a virtual monopoly. Even when the monopoly is broken with the arrival of new drugs, the older versions tend to be considered a poor treatment. The severity of the diagnosis also plays a role in the cost of treatment. Patients and physicians are often willing to pay high prices for even marginal improvements in outcomes.
Furthermore, our systems offer an incentive to administer more chemotherapy, and legal barriers prevent agencies such as the FDA from considering economic and cost-effectiveness considerations when approving new drugs. Unplanned expenses related to cancer care can also add up quickly. Diagnostic tests, radiation therapy, and surgery are all becoming increasingly expensive. People may feel overwhelmed by the financial burden of cancer care and may not have the energy to deal with money matters. It's important to ask for help when dealing with cancer-related costs. A trusted friend or family member can accompany you to doctor visits and help you keep track of expenses.
The American Cancer Society offers programs and services to help you during and after cancer treatment, including a brochure on how to manage the cost of cancer care in English and Spanish. Since the beginning of the “war on cancer” in the 1970s, five-year survival rates have increased significantly for many types of cancer. However, total out-of-pocket costs depend on several factors, including insurance coverage, types of cancer and treatment, frequency of treatment, and costs related to the cancer center. The American Cancer Society also offers grants to underinsured patients with certain cancer diagnoses to cover out-of-pocket costs related to cancer care. Additionally, it's important to remember that cancer care is not representative of a “free market system” and traditional checks and balances are absent when it comes to most cancer treatments. Finally, anticancer drugs appear more expensive than they actually are compared to other health care services. This distorts important public dialogue about the cost of anticancer drugs.