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Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 May;10(5):547-54. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2011.12.031. Epub 2011 Dec 29.

Medical care costs and survival associated with hepatocellular carcinoma among the elderly.

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Boston Health Economics, Inc, Waltham, Massachusetts 02451, USA.



We assessed the burden of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), in terms of mortality and medical care costs, based on analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database.


We analyzed data from the SEER-Medicare database on patients 66 years or older who were diagnosed with primary HCC from 1991 to 2007, entitled for Medicare Parts A and B, and not enrolled in health maintenance organizations (n = 5712). Controls were individuals without HCC, identified from a 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries residing in SEER areas; they were matched 1:1 with individuals with HCC (cases) for age, sex, race, and geographic region (average age, 75 y; 34.7% female). Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to estimate survival distributions. Costs were reported in 2009 dollars; per-patient-per-month (PPPM) costs were compared between cases and controls using the Wilcoxon rank sum test.


The largest proportion of cases had localized disease (38.2%), followed by regional (24.0%), unstaged (20.4%), and distant (17.3%) disease. The median survival times were 5 months for cases and 60 months for controls; they were 3 months for patients with distant disease, 4 months for patients with regional disease, and 9 months for those with localized disease. The mean PPPM costs were $7863 for cases and $1243 for controls (P < .001). These costs were primarily driven by inpatient (mean, $5439 vs $682 without HCC; P < .001) and hospice (mean $554 vs $42 without HCC; P < .001) care. Mean PPPM costs by stage were $7265 for localized disease, $8072 for regional disease, and $9585 for distant disease (P < .001 for trend).


Based on analysis of the SEER-Medicare database, costs for patients with HCC are approximately 6- to 8-fold higher than for those without this cancer. Patients with distant HCC had the greatest costs. These findings highlight that HCC is a substantial medical cost burden for elderly patients.

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