In a recent study, researchers analyzed medical costs related to breast cancer, which showed a higher price tag in advanced stages of the disease compared with early-stage breast cancer.

This retrospective claims data analysis published by American Health & Drug Benefits analyzed per capita allowed medical costs for 8360 newly diagnosed patients in 2010. Women included in the study were 18 to 64-years-old who were commercially insured.

Data was gathered from the Truven Healthcare MarketScan commercial claims database.

In the study, medical costs were defined as all costs allowed by the insurance company.

Researchers used data from 2010 as the index year, 2009 as a look-back year, and 2011 to 2012 as a look-forward period.

Since the stage was not identified in the data gathered, researchers created a claims-based algorithm using the system of the American Joint Committee on Cancer to assign stages to each case.

There were 2300 breast cancer patients identified as stage 0. Stages 1 and 2 were combined due to no difference in recommended treatments and included 4425 patients in both groups.

There were 1134 patients in stage 3 and 501 in stage 4.

After analyzing the data for 12 months after the diagnosis, the per-patient cost increase was considered significant in each of the first 3 stages, according to the study. There was no significant cost increase during this period observed between stages 3 and 4.

The costs for the second year decreased by more than 72% in all stages besides stage 4, which declined by 48%. Researchers noted the difference in costs was significant between each stage as well.

Treatment-related costs were about 55 to 60% of the total medical costs for patients with stage 0, 1/2, or 3 in the first year after diagnosis. They accounted for only 41% of the total cost for stage 4.

In the second year, treatment-related costs were 17% to 38% of the total costs for each stage, as the proportion increased with the stage.

In the first year after diagnosis, surgery costs accounted for $16,909 of the total costs for stage 0 patients, compared with$7660 for stage 4 patients.

Researchers noted this difference could be due to the curative nature of surgery in the earlier stages.

In the first year after diagnosis, radiation therapy costs were the highest for stage 3 patients, costing $21,133. Therapy costs were $14,454 for stage 0 patients, $14910 for stage 1/2 patients, and $12,015 for stage 4 patients.

Researchers also found that chemotherapy was the highest percentage of cost for stage 4 patients, totaling $34,686, and was the lowest for stage 0 patients, totaling $5170.
In the second year after diagnosis, overall chemotherapy expenses were the largest contributor to costs in every stage.

Overall, researchers found that treatment costs increase as the cancer progresses. The study concluded that knowledge of these costs could cause an increase in programs, such as breast cancer screenings, which could provide earlier diagnosis, leading to higher survival rates and lower costs.