NPR : News

With Cancer Care, The U.S. Spends More, But Gets More

By now it's hardly news that the U.S. spends more than every other industrialized country on health care. But a new study suggests that at least when it comes to cancer care, Americans may actually be getting decent value.

The study, in April issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, isn't the first to suggest that U.S. patients do better than their European counterparts when it comes to surviving most types of cancer. Other studies have shown that the U.S. approves cancer drugs faster than most nations across the pond.

But this study, by researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California and partially funded by the cancer drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb, actually attempted to quantify what the U.S. gets for the additional money it spends.

And what it found is that for most types of solid tumor cancers, particularly breast and prostate cancer, even after considering the higher costs, U.S. patients experienced greater survival gains than patients in Europe.

And those costs did grow. Between 1983 and 1999, the period covered by the study, U.S. spending on cancer care grew 49 percent (in 2010 dollars). By comparison, spending in the 10 European countries included in the study grew by 16 percent. But for patients diagnosed between 1995 and 1999, average survival from time of diagnosis in the U.S. was 11.1 years, while in Europe it was 9.3 years.

"Using conservative market estimates of the value of a statistical life, this study presented evidence that U.S. cancer survival gains are worth more than the corresponding growth in the cost of U.S. cancer care according to the most recent data available for analysis," the study's authors wrote.

There are some significant caveats, of course. One is that that "most recent data" ends in 1999. And, they note, "important changes in cancer care have occurred in the past ten years, including the introduction of expensive new drug treatment and increased use of diagnostic imaging."

So, the authors point out, it will take still more research to determine if today's increased spending is still worth it, and what specific aspects of cancer care are driving the U.S.'s improved survival rates.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Is It All Greek To You? Thank Medieval Monks, And The Bard, For The Phrase

Ben Zimmer, language columnist at The Wall Street Journal, explains the origin of the phrase "it's all Greek to me" — and shares a few variants from other languages.
NPR

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

If you've ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you're used to the endless side dishes that come out with the meal. They're called banchan, and they're remarkably simple to make for yourself.
WAMU 88.5

Cutting Local Taxes in The District

The D.C. Council has taken steps to accelerate tax cuts for all income earners. They're part of a broader overhaul of the city's tax levels, but some council members argued there wasn't enough time for a rigorous debate about the new schedule. We explore the debate over cutting taxes for D.C. residents and how it affects the city's ability to pay for critical local services.

NPR

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

A user revolt briefly shut down the social site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.