How much does it cost to treat men who have low-risk prostate cancer, from the time a patient has his first appointment to follow-up testing years later?
Utilizing an algorithm typically used for determining the cost of doing business in industry, researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, found a significant cost variation among competing prostate treatments that remained consistent over a 12-year period. The study was published in July 2016 in the journal Cancer.
Low-dose rate brachytherapy at $8,978 was notably cheaper than high-dose rate brachytherapy at $11,448, and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) at $11,665 was notably cheaper than IMRT, with the cost savings attributed to shorter procedure times and fewer visits required for treatment.
Both equipment costs and an inpatient stay ($2,306) contributed to the high cost of robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy at $16,946. Cryotherapy at $11,215 was more costly than low-dose rate brachytherapy, largely because of increased single-use equipment costs ($6,292 vs. $1,921).
The nationwide cost of prostate cancer care is substantial: It totaled $11.85 billion in 2010 and has been estimated that it will cost $18.53 billion in 2020.
As health policy becomes more cost-conscious, understanding the overall value of each approach for treating low-risk prostate cancer, defined as the ratio of the quality of care to the cost of that care, is becoming more important.
David Levine (@dlloydlevine) is co-chairman of Science Writers in New York and a member the National Association of Science Writers and the Association of Health Care Journalists. He writes for The New York Times, Reuters Health, Scientific American Mind, Nature Medicine, the Los Angeles Times, Nautilus, and the Smithsonian.