Cancer Treatment Cost Versus Cancer Survival Rates: A Look At Esophageal Cancer

A new study compares how much money is spent on cancer treatment to the overall of decrease in cancer mortality rates.

Dr. Samir Soneji of Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice published a study titled “New Analysis Reexamines the Value of Cancer Care in the United States Compared to Western Europe.”

Dr. Soneji stated in an article “Despite sharp increases in spending on cancer treatment, cancer mortality rates in the United States have decreased only modestly since 1970.”

When it comes to esophageal cancer, the amount of money which is actually spent on esophageal cacner care each year compared to the incidence and mortality rates is on par with Dr. Soneji’s findings.

In 2014, “an estimated $1.6 billion was spent on esophageal cancer care in the United States,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

A 2010 study titled “Projections of the Cost of Cancer Care in the U.S.: 2010-2020” found that esophageal cancer is among a group of cancers which has the largest net cost of care in the United States.

Despite these increasing annual costs, esophageal cancer remains one of the deadliest cancers in the United States.

While the overall five-year survival rate for esophageal cancer has improved since the mid 1970s when it was only 4.0%, esophageal cancer still shows poor survival rates. Currently, esophageal cancer has an overall five-year survival rate of only 17.5%.

“The greatest number of deaths averted occurred in cancers for which decreasing mortality rates were more likely to be the result of successful prevention and screening rather than advancements in treatment,” Dr. Soneji stated.

Unfortunately, there are no routine or standard screenings to improve early diagnosis of esophageal cancer. Many are not aware of the risk factors associated with esophageal cancer, including acid reflux disease or GERD (chronic heartburn being the most common symptom), obesity, smoking and poor nutrition, among others.

To make matters worse, symptoms of esophageal cancer (for example, difficulty swallowing and choking while eating) typically occur once the cancer has spread in the esophagus, other organs and/or lymph nodes. When esophageal cancer becomes more advanced it becomes much more difficult to treat. Patients diagnosed with Stage IV advanced esophageal cancer face a survival rate of 3.8%.

Despite these facts, esophageal cancer research is extremely underfunded.

In 2011, the National Institute of Health (NIH) of the United States only funded 30 esophageal cancer studies spending only $13 million.*

The National Cancer Institute reduced funding for esophageal cancer research again in 2014. The NCI spent only $26.5 million out of their total $4.79 billion budget for esophageal cancer research, with only 8% allocated for prevention research.

The only way to make a difference and reduce the amount of incidences and deaths resulting from esophageal cancer is to raise awareness, create standards for early detection screenings and to fund innovative research.

 

Sources & Further Reading:
US spends more on cancer care, saves fewer lives than Western Europe, Science Daily 

SEER Cancer Statistics Factsheets: Esophageal Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, 

A Snapshot of Esophageal Cancer, National Cancer Institute 

Chai, Jianyuan, and M Mazen Jamal. “Esophageal Malignancy: A Growing Concern.” World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG 18.45 (2012): 6521–6526.PMC. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Mariotto AB, Yabroff KR, Shao Y, Feuer EJ, Brown ML. Projections of the Cost of Cancer Care in the U.S.: 2010-2020. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Jan.

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