Objectives: We estimated the total medical costs incurred during the 5 years following a cancer diagnosisand annual medical use status for the six most prevalent cancers in Korea.
Methods: From January 1to December 31, 2006, new patients registered with the six most prevalent cancers (stomach, liver, lung,breast, colon, and thyroid) were randomly selected from the Korea Central Cancer Registry, with 30% ofpatients being drawn from each cancer group. For the selected patients, cost data were generated usingNational Health Insurance claims data from the time of cancer diagnosis in 2006 to December 31, 2010. Thetotal number of patients selected was 28,509. Five-year total medical costs by tumor site and Surveillance,Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) stage at the time of diagnosis, and annual total medical costs fromdiagnosis, were estimated. All costs were calculated as per-patient net costs.
Results: Mean 5-year net costsper patient varied widely, from $5,647 for thyroid cancer to $20,217 for lung cancer. Advanced stage atdiagnosis was associated with a 1.8–2.5-fold higher total cost, and the total medical cost was highest duringthe first year following diagnosis and decreased by the third or fourth year.
Conclusions: The costs of cancercare were substantial and varied by tumor site, annual phase, and stage at diagnosis. This indicates the needfor increased prevention, earlier diagnosis, and new therapies that may assist in reducing medical costs.