Cost of Treating Skin Cancer is Skyrocketing

Government study sheds little light on reasons for dramatic increase

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and in the past few years has become a growing public health problem. Not only is the number of skin cancer cases growing, the cost of treating the disease is surging.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says skin cancer treatment costs increased 5 times faster than treatments for other cancers between 2002 and 2011. (more…)

Thyroid Cancer: Decisions About Tests and Treatment

To the Editor:

Re “An Epidemic of Thyroid Cancer?,” by H. Gilbert Welch (Op-Ed, Nov. 6), and “Study Points to Overdiagnosis of Thyroid Cancer” (news article, Nov. 6):

It was bittersweet to have these two articles appear the day before my thyroid surgery, and to be reading them the day after. They validate the months of confusion and exhausting deliberations since I received a diagnosis of a tiny papillary microcarcinoma, but they also make me question again if I did the right thing in taking it out. (more…)

In Their Own Words: Lung Cancer Is Not Only a Smoker’s Disease

Nine and a half years ago I was diagnosed with lung cancer and I was told that I had 3 to 5 years to live. When I heard those words I was in total disbelief. I was a healthy, relatively young woman who never, ever smoked. I was active, teaching school, and busy being a mom. How could this be possible?

November is lung cancer awareness month and now, as a stage 4-lung cancer patient, I would like to get the word out concerning the facts that include this number one cancer killer accounts for about 28 precent of all cancer deaths and that anyone can get lung cancer. (more…)

The Cancer Breakthrough With Big Implications

Screening tumors could lead to smarter decisions about which cancer treatments will work best for individual patients

Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re sent for a dizzying array of tests — but most of them are focused on you, as the living host of the tumors, and not on the malignant growths themselves.

That may soon change, as researchers report in the journal Science. Some cancer centers already take biopsies of tumors and run them through genetic tests, to get a better sense of what’s driving the cancer. That information can be helpful in deciding which of the growing number of targeted anti-cancer drugs will work best to stop those growths. (more…)

New Bristol-Myers Drug Helped Skin-Cancer Patients in Trial Live Longer

New Crop of Drugs Work by Unleashing Body’s Immune System Against Tumors

A new Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. drug helped skin-cancer patients live longer than those who received chemotherapy in a clinical trial, the latest evidence behind a promising new crop of drugs that work by unleashing the body’s immune system against tumors.

It is the first time a late-stage clinical trial has shown that one of a new class of drugs—which block an immune-cell component known as PD-1—improve patient survival compared to a comparator drug. Previous clinical results for the Bristol drug and similar drugs from Merck & Co. and Roche Holding AG have largely been from “single-arm” studies in which all patients received the test drug. (more…)

AJMC Oncology Conference Helps Managed Care Stakeholders Do More for Patients Who Have Coverage, But Still Have Limits

Cancer care in America is at a crossroads, for while patients are gaining control over their care in some ways, they are losing choices, too, including where some can get treatment. Those were among the lessons from Patient Centered Oncology Care 2014, the annual conference sponsored by The American Journal of Managed Care, which brings together payers, providers, policymakers, and leaders from the pharmaceutical industry. (more…)

Chemotherapy Parity Laws Ignore Cost–Quality Question

With the FDA approval of several oral chemotherapy agents, the cost of medications to treat cancer is increasing rapidly. To control costs, legislators, patient advocates, and physicians have pushed for oral chemotherapy parity laws.

But, according to a recent viewpoint article by Bo Wang, PharmD, and colleagues at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School published in a November 2014 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine, these parity laws are an inadequate response to the problem of escalating medication costs. (more…)

‘Peak Obamacare': Will Exchanges End With A Bang Or A Whimper?

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear King v. Burwell, an important case about Obamacare’s subsidies (tax credits) to health insurers. Plaintiffs argue that in the 36 states with federal Obamacare exchanges, subsidies cannot be paid legally. If no subsidies can be paid, neither the individual mandate to buy health insurance nor the employer mandate to offer insurance can be enforced. (more…)

Too High a Price: Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs in the United States

Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Health Care Affordability Tracking Survey, September–October 2014

Whether they have health insurance through an employer or buy it on their own, Americans are paying more out-of-pocket for health care now than they did in the past decade. A Commonwealth Fund survey fielded in the fall of 2014 asked consumers about these costs. More than one of five 19-to-64-year-old adults who were insured all year spent 5 percent or more of their income on out-of-pocket costs, not including premiums, and 13 percent spent 10 percent or more.

Adults with low incomes had the highest rates of steep out-of-pocket costs. About three of five privately insured adults with low incomes and half of those with moderate incomes reported that their deductibles are difficult to afford. Two of five adults with private insurance who had high deductibles relative to their income said they had delayed needed care because of the deductible.

 

Original article: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2014/nov/out-of-pocket-health-care-costs

 

Too Many Women Face “Unnecessary” Repeat Breast Surgery

Madison, Wisconsin – A large national review shows that about a quarter of women who opt for lumpectomy to preserve their breasts wind up having further surgery to reduce risk of the cancer returning.

And the reasons aren’t necessarily medical: repeat surgery rates are driven by factors such as demography and differences of opinion about how much cancer-free tissue make up an adequate surgical margin. The result is that some patients may needlessly have a second surgery. (more…)