Cancer Screening Saves Lives, Is Cost-Effective

Wayne Kuznar

July 2012, Vol 3, No 5 - ASCO Annual Meeting


Chicago, IL—Improved cancer screening can save lives, and despite the high cost of implementing such a measure, it was found cost-effective and therefore valuable in a recent analysis using quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), said Michael S. Broder, MD, President of Partnership for Health Analytic Research, LLC (PHAR), CA, and colleagues, at the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.

Cancer care spending in the United States has increased from $13.1 billion in 1980 to $104 billion in 2006, but there is much controversy over the sufficiency of the benefit of this spending.

Cancer screening may reduce cancer- related morbidity, but to study whether such screening is cost-effective, Dr Broder and colleagues from PHAR; the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Surgical Outcomes and Quality; and RAND Health in Santa Monica, CA, developed a framework for measuring the value of improving compliance with measures for cancer screening compared with other quality measures.

Value of Quality Improvement

Dr Broder and colleagues used their framework to examine 18 HEDIS 2010 quality measures. Quality improvement (QI)-adjusted incremental costeffectiveness ratios (ICERs) for 3 cancer screening measures—cervical, breast, and colon—were compared to the remaining measures. ICERs were reported for measures representing a tradeoff (ie, between greater cost and greater health, or cost-savings and worse health).

To reach 95% compliance on these 3 cancer screening measures would cost $5.1 billion and add 160,000 QALYs— $32,640/QALY. This rate of compliance with all 18 measures would cost $13.4 billion and add 5.8 million QALYs, which translates to $2313/ QALY. That would make QI a good value and very cost-effective compared with most health improvements, which can cost more than $50,000 to $80,000 per QALY, according to Dr Broder.

Although these costs were substantial, resulting in an increase of 50% to 200% in the ICER for the cancer screening measures, after incorporating QI costs, the mean QI-adjusted ICER for these 3 measures suggests that improving cancer screening compliance is cost-effective at a $50,000/QALY willingness-to-pay threshold.

“Our analysis shows that complying with cancer screening measures is cost-effective, even considering the resources required to change established practices,” said Dr Broder. Addressing overuse of care can save money, he added.