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JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Feb 11;173(3):220-6. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1397.

The cost of breast cancer screening in the Medicare population.

Author information

1
Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center, Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center and Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. cary.gross@yale.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Little is known about the cost to Medicare of breast cancer screening or whether regional-level screening expenditures are associated with cancer stage at diagnosis or treatment costs, particularly because newer breast cancer screening technologies, like digital mammography and computer-aided detection (CAD), have diffused into the care of older women.

METHODS:

Using the linked Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database, we identified 137 274 women ages 66 to 100 years who had not had breast cancer and assessed the cost to fee-for-service Medicare of breast cancer screening and workup during 2006 to 2007. For women who developed cancer, we calculated initial treatment cost. We then assessed screening-related cost at the Hospital Referral Region (HRR) level and evaluated the association between regional expenditures and workup test utilization, cancer incidence, and treatment costs.

RESULTS:

In the United States, the annual costs to fee-for-service Medicare for breast cancer screening-related procedures (comprising screening plus workup) and treatment expenditures were $1.08 billion and $1.36 billion, respectively. For women 75 years or older, annual screening-related expenditures exceeded $410 million. Age-standardized screening-related cost per beneficiary varied more than 2-fold across regions (from $42 to $107 per beneficiary); digital screening mammography and CAD accounted for 65% of the difference in screening-related cost between HRRs in the highest and lowest quartiles of cost. Women residing in HRRs with high screening costs were more likely to be diagnosed as having early-stage cancer (incidence rate ratio, 1.78 [95% CI, 1.40-2.26]). There was no significant difference in the cost of initial cancer treatment per beneficiary between the highest and lowest screening cost HRRs ($151 vs $115; P = .20).

CONCLUSIONS:

The cost to Medicare of breast cancer screening exceeds $1 billion annually in the fee-for-service program. Regional variation is substantial and driven by the use of newer and more expensive technologies; it is unclear whether higher screening expenditures are achieving better breast cancer outcomes.

PMID:
23303200
PMCID:
PMC3638736
DOI:
10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1397
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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