SOURCE: Yale University, news release, April 6, 2015
MONDAY, April 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- More expensive breast cancer treatments are linked to a greater chance of survival, new research suggests.
"Our findings indicate that in some instances, newer and costlier approaches may be leading to improved outcomes in breast cancer patients," study senior author Dr. Cary Gross, director of Yale University's Cancer Outcomes Public Policy and Effectiveness Research Center, said in a university news release.
"Now we need to tackle the harder questions about what we can afford to pay, and find out which treatments are effective for each patient," Gross added.
The study, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, found an association between more expensive medical care and improved survival rates among breast cancer patients. It did not prove a cause-and-effect link between the two.
In conducting the study, the researchers looked at the Medicare billing records of almost 9,800 women across the United States. The women were between 67 and 94 years old. They all had stage 2 or 3 breast cancer.
The researchers looked for trends in the women's treatment costs and survival rates between 1994 and 1996, and compared them to trends from 2004 and 2006.
The study revealed that the costs for treating women with stage 3 breast cancer jumped from $18,100 to roughly $32,600. Meanwhile, the five-year survival rate for these women improved from 38.5 percent to 52 percent.
Treatment for women with stage 2 breast cancer increased by more than 40 percent. The average cost for treatment was $12,300 in 1996 and $17,400 in 2006, according to the researchers. Five-year survival rates for these women also improved, though more modestly, from 68 percent to 72.5 percent.
Gross said that the rising costs stemmed largely from big increases in the cost of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
"We view our findings as a glass half-full: survival is improving, although costs are rising substantially," study first author Dr. Aaron Feinstein, currently a resident in head and neck surgery at UCLA in Los Angeles, said in the Yale news release.
"We need research that can help us not only to develop new treatments, but to learn how to contain costs while we are advancing patient care," Feinstein added.
The American Cancer Society provides more information on breast cancer treatment.