Challenges remain in treating cancer patients

screenshot_214In 2014, the United States made significant progress in cancer care as demonstrated by improvement in the five- year cancer survival rate for many cancer types and a record 14.5 million cancer survivors, as well as by the availability of 10 new drugs and several new tests for the diagnosis, treatment, or management of cancer according to a report from ASCO.
In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 10 new drugs and several new tests for the diagnosis, treatment or management of cancer, and more than 771 promising therapies are in the development pipeline.

An estimated 1.6 million new cancers were diagnosed in 2014, with growing numbers expected in future years. Demand for cancer care is being driven by newly insured patients, an aging population and long-term care needs of survivors.

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In the United States today, more than one third of adults and nearly one fifth of children are considered obese. Public health experts are concerned about a range of serious health consequences. There is mounting evidence that obesity leads to at least eight forms of cancer and affects survival.5 Obesity is responsible for more than 84,000 cancer cases annually, and this number is expected to rise substantially in future years6,7—yet the link between obesity and cancer is largely unrecognized by the public.

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The number of oncologists constant despite growth in demand. In 2014, approximately 11,500 hematologists and/or medical oncologists provided care to U.S. patients with cancer, a modest 1.6 percent increase from the previous year.9 Altogether, more than 18,000 physicians provide oncology subspecialty patient care, including gynecologic oncology, pediatric hematology/oncology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology.10 Additionally, more than three thousand advanced practice providers provide oncology care across the country, including nurse practitioners, doctors of nursing practice, and physician assistants.

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In the last decade, the average monthly cost of cancer treatment has more than doubled to $10,000.22 A handful of treatments now cost more than $100,000 annually per patient, and as cancer therapy moves toward use of multiple such agents, concerns about cost have grown. Payers and policymakers are focused on strategies to better define value and engage patients in selecting high-value options.

Health insurers and policymakers have pursued a variety of strategies to control cost while preserving or enhancing quality. These include: administrative controls on utilization (e.g., preauthorization for costly therapies and clinical pathways), development of alternative payment models, and quality monitoring. There has also been a strong emphasis on creating more informed and value conscious consumers.

Although the U.S. cancer care system faces many challenges, it is capable of meeting these expectations through mobilization of cancer clinicians and researchers and the broader healthcare community in this unique time of dramatic change and significant opportunity.

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