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Oral cancer chemo costly for elderly in US

12 June 2015

Oral cancer chemo costly for elderly in US

Researchers have that chemotherapy for elderly patients with oral and pharyngeal cancers costs significantly more than alternative treatments – with Medicare costs, on average, $32,000 more over five years. Their results were published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

Examining Medicare determinants for patients aged 66 and older diagnosed with oral and pharyngeal cancer over a 10 year period, the researchers found three primary determinants of increased cost: treatment selection, number of comorbities, and race.

Lead author Christopher Hollenbeak wrote: “Given the high healthcare resource use associated with the treatment and downstream care of patients with oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers, efforts have been directed toward understand and characterising the economic burden associated with this disease.”

The researchers found that chemotherapy and radiation therapy were common choices of treatment, especially in pharyngeal cancer, which cost significantly more. Although patients with oral cancer were more likely to be female and older than those with pharyngeal cancers, demographics in general did not significantly impact cancer costs.

Race, however, was said to have “large and significant effects on five-year costs”, according to the authors, as they said treatment options for those who identified as black costing more.

Co-existing disease also increased treatment costs significantly. A patient with two or more co-existing medical conditions, for example, would increase the cost of treatment by $13,500 on average.

The authors concluded: “Despite these limitations, our study reveals the significant economic burden associated with oral cavity and pharyngeal cancers in a contemporary cohort of elderly patients from a Medicare cost perspective. With an attributable cost of $27,000 for patients with oral cavity cancer and $40,000 for pharyngeal cancers, there are substantial costs attributable to this disease.”

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