Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cancer and Time

The lifetime risk (for all races) of being diagnosed with cancer is currently 45.67% for males and 38.09% for females. And the lifetime risk of dying from cancer is 23.56% for males and 19.93% for females (see stats here).

These staggering statistics mean that someone in your immediate family will most likely die from cancer. For those robbed of a love one the tragic costs of cancer are all to clear. But cancer also has some hidden costs that are worth emphasising and addressing.

Via Bioethics News I came across this article in the Washington Post entitled "Cancer's Unrecognized Toll: Time". Here is a brief excerpt from the story:

The hours spent sitting in doctors' waiting rooms, in line for the CT scan, watching chemotherapy drip into veins: Battling cancer steals a lot of time _ at least $2.3 billion worth for patients in the first year of treatment alone.

So says the first study to try to put a price tag to the time that people spend being treated for 11 of the most common cancers.

Even more sobering than the economic toll are the tallies, by government researchers, of the sheer hours lost to cancer care: 368 hours in that first year after diagnosis with ovarian cancer; 272 hours being treated for lung cancer, 193 hours for kidney cancer.

....Cancer is more than the just the dollars and cents for the medicines and the treatments and the doctors. It's also the lost opportunities for the patients," added Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society, who praised the research for attempting to quantify that often overlooked reality.

How much a disease costs society plays an important role in policy-making, such as how much to invest in medical research, but it's hard to calculate the value of a patient's time spent getting care.

The actual study addressed in the Washington Post story is available in the latest issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute (here).