Cost of Cancer: Healthcare Expenditures and Economic Impact

  • Bengt JönssonEmail author
Part of the Recent Results in Cancer Research book series (RECENTCANCER, volume 213)


Healthcare expenditures for cancer account for a low share of total healthcare expenditures, compared to the relative burden of the disease. The share has also not changed very much over the last decades. Cost for cancer drugs has increased as a share of total expenditures, but this has been offset by a reduction of inpatient hospital care for cancer. Accounting for the cost of cancer should not be limited to healthcare expenditures. Resources are also used for public and private care of cancer patients outside the healthcare sector, for example for palliative care. Informal care by family and friends is an important complement to professional care, and estimates indicate that this amounts to between half and one-third of the costs of formal care. Indirect costs related to the loss of production for persons with cancer are estimated to be of the same magnitude as the direct healthcare expenditures. Indirect costs related to premature mortality dominate the estimate of indirect costs, but those costs have declined over time, despite increasing incomes, due to the reduction in mortality due to cancer in the economically active age groups. Estimates of indirect costs due to morbidity are uncertain and vary significantly between published studies. A full accounting of the costs of cancer should include an estimate of the health burden of cancer. Loss of quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALY) can be measured and valued based on the willingness to pay for a QALY. Such estimates are possible to derive from decisions about allocating resources for cancer. There are few estimates of these costs, but available studies indicate that the intangible costs of lost QALY are by far the dominating cost of cancer. The value for policy-making of costs of cancer estimates increases when results with consistent methods and data are available that allow comparisons between countries and over time. The evidence about the cost of cancer is still limited, but when current scientific progress produces an increasing number of new options for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, studies of the cost of cancer become increasingly important to inform decisions about resource allocation.


Cancer Direct costs Costs for cancer drugs Indirect costs Informal care Intangible costs International comparison 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.StockholmSweden

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