, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 383-396

Breast Cancer Management

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Abstract

The purpose of this article was to provide a literature-based extensive overview of the quality-of-life and cost issues posed by the management of breast cancer.

Incidence and mortality rates vary widely in different countries. Breast cancer accounts approximately for one-fifth of all deaths in women aged 40–50 years. The 1994–1998 incidence rate in the US population was on average 114.3 per 100 000 women.

Treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy and drug therapy (cytotoxic and endocrine drugs). All treatment options affect patients’ health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) in various ways. The use of cytotoxic agents has a particularly large HR-QOL impact. HR-QOL questionnaires are complex tools, not routinely used in breast cancer trials.

Worldwide, around 10 million individuals develop cancer each year; this figure is expected to increase to 15 million in 2020. For all cancers, the total economic burden of this disease worldwide was projected by the authors to be in the range of $US300–400 billion in 2001 (about $US100–140 billion as direct costs and the remainder as indirect costs [morbidity and mortality]). According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the total cost of cancer was estimated at $US156.7 billion in 2001 in US ($US56.4 billion as direct costs, $US15.6 as indirect morbidity costs, and $US84.7 billion as indirect mortality costs). Based on limited information, in the US, breast cancer can be projected to account for about one-fifth/one-fourth of the total cost of cancer. Breast cancer treatment costs are higher in the US than in other developed countries. Both direct and indirect costs are dependent on disease stage. The per-patient costs for initial care in 1992 were estimated at $US10 813, for continuing care at $US1084 and for terminal care at $US17 886. Stage-specific costs provide information for cost-effectiveness analyses of cancer-control initiatives, such as screening programmes. Economic studies on breast cancer are heterogeneous, and the cost estimates made are not easily generalisable. The cost of treatment for breast cancer in developing countries is ≤5% of that in developed regions.