Prostate Cancer -

May 24, 2010 14:47 ET Prostate Cancer Treatment Expert Dr. David Samadi, MD, Discusses Rising Costs of Cancer Treatment in the United States

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - May 24, 2010) -  A new study found that the amount of money spent on cancer treatment in the United States almost doubled over the past two decades, mainly due to the growing number of cancer patients.

As a result of the US' aging population, older people are being diagnosed with cancer at higher rates. Dr. David Samadi, Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, agrees that advancements in cancer treatments, not costly cancer drugs, are resulting in a higher survival rate, which means that cancer treatment money is well spent.

"Insurance companies are more focused on covering health outcomes rather than health treatments," said Dr. Samadi, a robotic surgeon who specializes in prostate cancer treatment and has performed 3,000 successful prostatectomies in his practice. "By actively treating cancer, instead of managing the patient's progression, side effects and complications, we are on the right track."

The study, conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which surveyed more than 164,000 people, also found that private insurance companies cover about half of cancer treatment costs, while out-of-pocket costs for patients have dropped in the last two decades. Cancer cases covered by Medicare and Medicaid programs also increased.

However, the study's dollar figures are dated from 2007, during which time some very expensive cancer drugs have emerged in the market. From the beginning to the end of the study's time frame, cancer treatment costs doubled to more than $48 billion. Additionally, the study did not incorporate costs for diagnostic tests and scans, which are typically the highest cost items. Critics believe that newer treatments and increased testing are driving cancer care costs, which are absorbed by the patients.

While critics may believe the U.S. is "buying increases in survival," Dr. Samadi believes it is a good investment. Robotic surgery costs are actually lower due to shorter hospital stays and fewer surgical complications. "The costs go for health outcomes rather than health treatments," explains Samadi. This was evident in the study's findings, where inpatient hospital care declined from 64 percent to about 27 percent due to a shift to less expensive outpatient care.

"Robotic surgery patients treated for prostate cancer are released within a day of the operation, which greatly reduces costs," said Samadi, "as opposed to those who opted for radiation therapy or active waiting. With robotic prostate surgery, the gland is removed, along with the cancer, forever, once and for all."

Some critics believe that robotic surgery outcomes are not worth the costs but Dr. Samadi disagrees. "Of course, the technology costs more, but the outcomes save money in the long run: with faster recovery, shorter hospital stays and fewer complications such as incontinence and impotence, which need subsequent treatment of their own," he concluded. "In this time of healthcare reform and rising healthcare costs, we need to focus on maximizing efficiency while improving patient care."

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