Cancer costs could increase 66% by 2020
January 12th, 2011
06:15 PM ET

Cancer costs could increase 66% by 2020

The costs associated with caring for cancer patients in the United States could increase as much as 66% by 2020, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Cancer Institute.

The predicted rise in cost is due in part to the nation's growing population of elderly, who are aging into a period of their lives when they are at increased risk of developing common cancers.

"We're expecting to see a lot more cancer in the future," says Dr. Robin Yabroff, an epidemiologist with the National Cancer Institute and one of the study's authors. "It's mostly in the elderly."

Presently, the nation spends $124 billion on cancer.

To make their prediction about the cost of care in 2020, researchers looked at 13 cancers in men and 16 cancers in women. The researchers laid out three potential scenarios of change. The 66% increase in cancer care costs is the worst case assumption, which is predicated on a 5% annual increase in the cost of  treating cancer in the first year after diagnosis and the final year of recovery or death.

"We know the costs of cancer care are increasing," Yabroff says. "The costs of care are highest in the period after diagnosis and at the end of life among the people who die."

Another "more reasonable" assumption according to the institute is a projected 39% increase in cancer care costs by 2020, which assumes only a 2% annual increase the costs of in treating cancer in its earliest and final phases. In a third scenario that  factors in only  a growing population of cancer patients, the institute predicts a more modest 27% increase in cancer care costs by 2020.

"Part of the reason we looked at several scenarios is it's difficult to know what's going to happen in the future, and treatment patterns can change really quickly," says Yabroff.

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soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. question

    Gee, and after all the decades they tried to kill us off. They dosed us with DDT & other pesticides, took away all glass bottles (even my mayo is in plastic) sent us to Vietnam, Afghanistan & Iraq, shrunk our health care & still many of us managed to survive. Plus the Boomers have boosted this economy for almost 60 years. Now we're old, ugly & wrinkled & have the nerve to die slowly & in pain. But on the positive side we're still boosting the economy. Big Pharma & Big Med will thrive as we croak. An oncologist surely makes as much as a Plastic Surgeon. You kids better grab the power-of-attorney though while we're sinking. Old folks are inconvenient, but if you can compost us for the good of the planet we all win!

    January 12, 2011 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • The Truth

      Your knowledge regarding physician income is lacking.

      January 12, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
    • k

      well said question, but most people do not care, but they will care eventually

      January 12, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
    • BillyGibbons

      So, they are basing this on a 5% rise per year. In ten years that's 50%. Population increases at 2% a year so that's 20%
      You don't need to be a doctor to know that EVERYTHING will probably go up by ~66% in ten years just because of PEOPLE and INFLATION.
      Obviously we don't need medicine so much as a grasp of basic mathematics to save this country.

      January 13, 2011 at 08:24 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You have the nerve to live longer because of advances by Big Pharma and Big Med. Without them you'd be dying off by the time you were 60.

      January 13, 2011 at 08:46 | Report abuse |
    • peteman70

      BillyGibbons, I believe you need a lesson in compounding rates. 5% for 10 years is 62.89%.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:03 | Report abuse |
    • HippiePuncher

      Way to counter that boomer stereotype–nah, you're not whiny, paranoid, self-centered or hyperprivileged at all!

      January 13, 2011 at 09:43 | Report abuse |
    • Boramin

      Just wanted to echo that you know very little about physician compensation. The problems with our healthcare system have almost nothing to do with doctor's salaries; they are hurting under the current system as well.

      Also, equating a plastic surgeon to an oncologist is a silly comparison; wealthy people elect to pay out of pocket to fund most plastic surgeons, whereas oncologists treat people who are actually sick across the board. In addition, they spend every day in, day out working with, comforting, and trying to save the critically and terminally ill. In all honesty, I don't think you have considered what it would be like to do this emotionally challenging job.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • Eric Talbott

      The comment about not knowing fundamental math is a pretty clear expression of not understanding the fundamental concept of compounding. $100 x 1.05 = $105, $105 x 1.05 = $110.25, $110.25 x 1.05 = $115.7625, ............................

      January 13, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • BillyGibbons

      peteman70, Correct, thanks. Costs will indeed compound yearly and easily exceed the ~66% just like everything else will rise as well. If the Government wants to be the "single payer" then and program also "compounds".... Good catch.

      January 13, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
  2. doctorwascher

    The sad irony is that at least 50% of al new cancer cases are thought to be preventable through evidence-based diet and lifestyle approaches to cancer prevention. For so many reasons, an "ounce" of cancer prevention is worth a "ton" of cancer treatment and cure.

    Robert A. Wascher, MD, FACS
    Author, "A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race"

    January 12, 2011 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • doctorj

      You are a true inspiration and should be a pillar of credibility and reason for true doctors around the globe such as Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Cousens, Dr. Courdain. Thank you.

      January 12, 2011 at 21:47 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Good statement and very thoughtful. The only problem is we have people with cancer who did the right thing and we have people not getting cancer doing the wrong thing. Sorry, but medical science is getting a little to biased on things. Huge companies have to much money in the tratment and they want to create the fear to keep us thinking if we only take this we will be ok. Medicine is great and there are awesome doctors out there doing the right thing. My issue is we are great at treating, but very poor at curing/eliminating disease. I guess with everyone getting so old, then we will die of something and cancer will be a huge part of that.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
    • Boramin


      Dr. Wascher is correct. While yes, some folks do not get cancer who statistically should, the reality is that if they have engaged in high risk behavior their entire lives they likely have other health complications that will either destroy their quality of life or kill them just as dead as cancer. For instance, for those who are proud to have smoked for 30 years and never gotten cancer, realize that there is NO way to escape your impending emphysema (and at 30 years it has probably already hit you anyway). A morbidly obese individual cannot escape the taxation on their cardiovascular system and shortening of life by, essentially, working their heart to death. An alcoholic cannot escape eventual cirrhosis, portal hypertension, and the ensuing death.

      And don't forget, all of these conditions also dramatically increase your risk for a plethora of cancers. In case anyone out there was unaware, especially in the case of smoking and obesity, they both increase risk for almost every cancer imaginable. This is not an overstatement.

      January 13, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
    • anobody

      The reality is even with a tightly controlled diet and a healthy lifestyle environmental factors are mostly to blame in most if not all cancers that are not hormonally or genetically based. Sorry but diet and exercise have a minimal impact in the grand scheme of cancer prevention.

      January 14, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    The world is being fleeced by the cancer treatment lobbyists and big pharma. Simple Poly MVA along with organic compounds will strike and kill harmful cancer cells while helping the body rebuild damaged cells. Diet and nutrition are key to this treatment. But, "you can't make money on a carrot", so the world will be kept in the dark on this treatment and population control will remain in effect.

    January 12, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • daniel

      Hello Joe, I came across your comment that mentioned "Simple Poly MVA w/ Organic compounds" and "diet & nutrition are key" regarding to cancer treatment. Can you elaborate on them? My mother is diagnosed with stage 4 LMS. Besides her chemo, I am trying to find out all other resources that might help. Thank you so much for your time.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:02 | Report abuse |
  4. annie

    As a Canadian I find it so sad that when hit with such a devastating illness, you have to worry about how to pay for your treatment. Even worse, the more money you have the better your chances of survival. In most cases here, we all receive the best treatments possible. We also are lucky enough to keep our homes.

    January 12, 2011 at 22:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • redsox1

      Actually, annie I work at a cancer treatment center in Maine and the number of patients that choose to come here from Canada for treatment is staggering. They don't want to wait and hope to recieve treatment in time.

      January 13, 2011 at 08:10 | Report abuse |
  5. William Stockglausner

    Where is the scenario where the public finds out about the FDA, the pharmaceutical companies, and the AMA, colluding to suppress cancer cures with inexpensive alternative health procedures? Wake up people! You think the medical industry is going to slaughter their cash cow for you?

    January 13, 2011 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kate

      Wow. Can't believe you could even think something that stupid.

      Every Big Pharma company out there is dying to be the first one to cure cancer. Not only for the financial gain, but also for the fact that it's curing cancer!!

      January 13, 2011 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
    • El Pasoan1

      Kate, wake up from your fantasy life please...

      January 13, 2011 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
  6. Thatguy371

    As William Stockglausner stated on this thread, we will never stop being treated as the cash cows we are to big pharm. Face it, you live long enough, you're getting Alzheimers or the big C. So live life while you can, enjoy as much as you can, and do what you can to have yourself taken care of when you can't do that anymore.

    January 13, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. karek40

    66% increase in costs, no big deal we have national health care for everyone. You might wonder how a bankrupt government will pay for it. There is a laffer curve which predicts the revenue to be generated from raising taxes. This curve also predicts there is a point where when you raise taxes the revenue actually drops. California found that out when they raised the taxes and the 7000 people who were paying 20% of their received taxes began to leave. Illinois just raised their taxes 66% and failed to look at the laffer curve, their income will go down just as soon as those paying taxes realize they can go elsewhere.

    January 13, 2011 at 08:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James

      That Illinois increse means personal taxes just went from 3% to 5% (a 66% rise). That's still less than we pay in Louisiana.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse |
  8. Hot Topix

    The article seems a bit misleading. It implies a 66% increase in the COST of cancer care, but yet the article points to an increase in TOTAL SPENDING on cancer treatments due to an increase in patients.

    January 13, 2011 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Religious Sects

      Wouldn't it be great if the "News" would just report facts to inform rather than play the gloom and doom headlines to sell ad space. CNN, you can still sell ad space with interesting and informative stories written by talented educated writers.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
  9. booblyboobly

    Sounds like Oil cost increases to me...all on assumption. How about a cure? Billions are raised every year through programs like Relay for Life...

    January 13, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kate

      Everyone is working on it. As soon as a cure is found, it'll be out there!

      January 13, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse |
  10. Dan

    I have a friend who works at a well known cancer treatment center......said the doctors will order unnecessary tests simply because the insurance companies will pay for it. Also have a niece that told me the allergist she used to work for knew every which way to bilk to insurance companies. She did not want to be associated with the fraud and eventually left to join another practice. Did it ever occur also the the money to be made by pharmaceutical companies treating a problem a problem rather than curing it is much greater.

    January 13, 2011 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Corporate America

    Yes our capitalistic ways for profiteering are finally locked in place throughout our society. Now that it is completely understood that people who are either stupid enough or unfortunate enough to be put in a position to burden their families with a disease that they should be required to give me all their families posessions then the GOP vision is complete. I love my lobbyists. Good job minions

    January 13, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. schoolsub

    Here is an example of what is wrong with healthcare costs. My mother passed away in 2005. She spent the last twenty-five days of her life in a public hospital. During that stay, her hospital bill (just the hospital – no doctor bills) was over one hundred thousand dollars. She was not receiving any special treatment for cancer or heart desease or any other particular desease. That bill was more than her lifetime income. Why are hospital costs so high? Thank goodness she had Medicare and a good supplement to take care of the costs. I must be honest and also state that the $101,000 bill was reduced to about $19,000 that was paid by her Medicare and supplement.

    January 13, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kate

      Studies have found that the vast majority of $$ spent on healthcare for a terminally ill patient is in the last few months of life.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse |
    • scott

      The problem is the amount of admin and overhead cost that do not go directly into healthcare for the patient. Also hospitals can see that insurance and Medicare will pay whatever so they (hospitals) can charge a large profit margin.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:49 | Report abuse |
  13. ryan

    So out of all three scenarios – they use the "worst" case scenario as the headline for the article. Thats not journalism folks – thats trying to scare people. Is there any news outlet still going these days that has any sort of integrity in their reporting?

    January 13, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Religious Sects

      To answer your question, NO. It appears obvious that they and the vast majority of "news" outlets are using the lazy man's approach to selling ad space. Cheap, uninformed articles lacking in facts and research about hot button topics with twisted headlines to scare people into web hits to raise the price of ad space.

      January 13, 2011 at 09:10 | Report abuse |
  14. foodisthecure

    Wait everybody we are all looking at this from the wrong, what the best cure for cancer. The best cure for cancer is prevention. The problem is our current food system. Drinks served in cancer causing plastics. Cancer causing soy and corn in just about every item on the grocery store shelf.Eat minimaly prossesed organic foods prepared fresh every meal. And just know what is in your food. The pharma companies are important to us like pain managment and emergancy care but let's be responsible for our own disease care because the cure is out there"proper food". Aware yourself at http://www.foodmatters.tv at least watch the trailer. Happy health to everyone! 🙂

    January 13, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Looking back from 70

    John Kennedy
    John Lennon
    Bob Marley
    Harry Chapin

    Maybe they were the lucky ones – never having to suffer the coming of 'old age'

    January 13, 2011 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Travis King

    Cancer has become such a boring issue. We all should know what causes cancer and how to prevent and possibly even cure it. A western diet, composed of highly processed foods, complete with additives and pesticides, causes cancer. Eating a nonwestern diet complete with whole foods, grains, and minimal to no meat, prevents cancer. Cancer as I understand can NOT live in a base (e.g. alkaline) environment and can only live in an acidic environment. To cure cancer, turn you body from an acidic environment to an base environment by restricting the consumption of foods that cause acidity. Most fruits and vegetables reverse acidity. Meat clearly produces acidity. Read more... study more. Many doctors are clearly aware of what causes cancer. However, you think they're going to publicly advise use to stop eating meat? See how that worked for Oprah.

    January 13, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jen

      look dude.... stop acting like everybody has a choice about getting cancer - in my husband's family it is genetic! there is no getting around it –if you have the gene mutation you have (male or female) over 80% of colon cancer, for females 80% of endometrial cancer, there's also small intestine cancer, stomach cancer, brain cancer - not everyone has the luxury of not having cancer no matter how they live their life.

      January 13, 2011 at 10:24 | Report abuse |
  17. Mike

    As a 56 year old my wife and I are doing everything right. Good citizens, pay taxes, live within our means (middle middle income), modest house paid for, small savings, retirement contributions so as not to be a burden on society or our children when we retire. We have always paid our bills becasuse we only buy what we can afford. One day after we retire there could be a major medical issue that will require more money than we can pay. We have two choices in this great United States of America (1) DIE or (2) Lose everything we worked for during 40 or 50 years to the medical community thus becoming a burden to society and our children. May God have mercy on us.

    January 13, 2011 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Wondering...

    All the negative sentiment towards Big Pharma... So Small Pharma is better?

    January 13, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Richard

    The cost of cancer care is ridiculous. My wife is currently being treated for breast cancer. Four chemo treatments will cost 90 thousand dollars. She first had to have a port inserted for the drugs to be put into her. This cost f 14 thousand dollars. Once these chemo treatments are completed she will have a lumpectomy. God knows what that cost will be. This will be followed by 35 radiation treatments. I have no idea what this will cost. She is on Medicare so we are not paying these costs out of pocket. I will tell you one injection of neulasta which keeps the white blood cells up cost 9 thousand dollars and she gets one after each chemo treatment. How can the country sustain these costs. By the way this is stage one cancer. I can't immagine what the cost of treatment for stage 4 would be.

    January 13, 2011 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Who Cares

    Its like blood work cost you 700 bucks when all they do is place it in a machine to analyze, like that cost sooo much to do. More patients equal more treatment and more money but thats not enough, lets raise the cost of more efficient care too. I mean really, is it that laborous to treat a cancer patient, is the doc really sweating and working really hard or is he just telling his staff to do this and do that like place you in a machine, hook up an IV, administer a drug. The health care industry is BS and likened to wallstreet, I have zero sympathy for them, you are paid well enough.

    January 13, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric Talbott

      And what was the cost of the machine that performed the analysis on your blood?

      January 13, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse |
  21. rex

    For all of you who think cancer is merely preventable from eating the right foods you are most definitely wrong. I'm not saying all this plastic that our food/water is contained in is not doing harm, but it's not that easy. I was 100% healthy, never sick, ate healthy, exercised daily (power walking, running, p90x). I'm 5'5" wieghing 115 lbs, so i'm not overweight. I was diagnosed with a rare endometrial cancer last year. Went through chemo and radiation. Dec 2010 my ct scan was clean. I'm working out again and still eating healthy, but there is no way to know. Cancer has been around since the beginning of time and there were no plastic bottles then, or preservatives in food, etc.

    January 13, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jason

    I thought all of this funding that we are giving was in a attempt to cure cancer. Not treat it. Oh that's right curing cancer is less capitalistic.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. jen

    well, my family could have saved a little on those costs, if there were actually doctors that didn't give my husband wrong information regarding his chances of getting genetic colon cancer... my husband would be dead right now, except, thankfully he took it upon himself to get his 3rd colonoscopy before he was due...doctors told him, oh every 3-5 years and you'll be fine - he went at 3.5 yrs since his last one and was found with 2 primary tumors - 6 more months it would have been everywhere, roughly $250,000 later, thankfully, he is alive and well.... there would be less 'cancer' costs if more people were able to have access to good and decent surveillance... colon cancer isn't for the OLD anymore

    January 13, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Eric Talbott

    Those who say physician fees are not a big part of the problem are not in touch with reality. 4% of medical costs are attached to malpractice insurance (so don't even try taking that route). I had an operation that took 2.5 hours and the physicians fee alone was $35,000.00. That's $14,000 per hour?!?!?!?!?! Most people would consider 1/10 that amount ($1,400.00) per hour to be FANTASTIC income. The $35,000 did not include hospital fee, assistant surgeon, and anesthesiologist. Greed is a major factor in our medical system.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. DD

    I didn't become a doctor because I would never have been able to trade money for someone's life. Still a barbaric society that equates $$ with health.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RichG

    This is why I don't give to any cancer charities. What's the point? Greed rules our country. There will never ever be a cure for cancer as long as you have Gordon Gekkos running your government.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. El Pasoan1

    Cancer = Chaching, chaching, chaching for pharma companies... disgusting! My mom died of cancer in 2007 and they are still calling and trying to charge!

    January 13, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. OPThought

    Does this work?

    January 13, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Papabrickhouse

    I guess the government forsees a cure so thats why they are jacking up the prices!!! Kinda like how they work the system on gas.. Find a cure or a disaster is on its way $$ ski rockets... America is the worse place in the world, we pay a price to be born and pay a price to be sick and pay the price to die, maybe not the person who dies but the next of kin has to pay the price... One of the things we should never have to pay for, is the price of our health. And among many other things... Its all about the green shame shame shame..

    January 14, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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