4 cancer care trends to watch

Although new care models and diagnostic strategies are improving cancer care management, a new issue has emerged, writes healthcare policy expert Paul Keckley, Ph.D: Whether the innovations are cost-effective.

With new innovations come higher costs, which affect researchers, payers, providers and patients, according to Keckley, managing director at the Navigant Center for Healthcare Research and Policy Analysis.

Whether the benefits justify these costs is a complicated question. Four trends indicate cost and relative value will become major issues in cancer care management down the road:

Rise in demand and prevalence. Cancer, already the cause of 25 percent of deaths in the United States, is projected to be the leading cause of death nationwide by 2030. Breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers are the most common, but liver, pancreatic and kidney cancer diagnoses have ramped up in the last 15 years. This hhas significantly expanding the market for cancer care and spurring similar expansions of programs at providers such as Cleveland Clinic, as well as triggering cancer center construction.

Higher survival rates. Since reaching an all-time high in 1991, cancer mortality rates are down 22 percent, Keckley writes. As the population ages, increasing their risk of cancer, the number of survivors will increase. That means cancer is an increasingly larger piece of the population health management puzzle for providers.

Public attention. The general public knows cancer survival rates are improving, but this remains a major anxiety, according to Keckley. Providers such as Huntsman Cancer Institute and drug manufacturers increasingly advertise directly to consumers. Cancer in general has gone from a death sentence for patients to a chronic condition--albeit one with a particularly stressful management process.

Rising costs. Cancer care costs will increase to more than $173 billion a year by 2020, about $70 billion more than 2006. Cancer medication costs, for example, rose 20 times faster than the Consumer Price Index since 2000.

Cancer care outcomes, Keckley writes, are "not guaranteed by our rich legacy--until and unless the relative value question about cancer care management is addressed forthrightly in a meaningful public discussion, its future is uncertain, reserved for fewer and fewer who can afford it."

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