Improving cancer care

New report offers solution to a system in trouble


LOS ANGELES, Cali. – There are 14 million cancer survivors living in the U.S. More than 1.6 million patients are diagnosed with cancer every year. The cost of cancer care rose from $72 billion in 2004 to $125 billion in 2010. With skyrocketing costs and a doctor shortage, many say we are in a cancer crisis. Now, a new report is offering solutions to a system in trouble.   

Dikla Benzeevi has lived with stage 4 breast cancer for 11 years and has been on different combinations of 11 different drugs.

"It's been a really difficult road. It's a roller coaster ride," Benzeevi said.

She's had to navigate her way through a complicated health system.

"I felt like different specialists weren't communicating with one another," Benzeevi said.

Dr. Patricia Ganz says we are in a cancer crisis.

"Cancer is so complicated because it's just not over when it's over," said Ganz, a Medical Oncologist with UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

By 2030, experts expect a 45 percent increase in the number of cancer patients, but a decrease in doctors.

In a recent Institute of Medicine report, Ganz says we can improve cancer care by training medical personnel to work as a team, stopping unnecessary tests and treatments, improving information technology, offering affordable care, and informing patients about their treatment options.

"We need to explain those to patients, and they need to tell us honestly what they do and do not want to have done to them," Ganz said.

The report says patients should ask: what's my life expectancy? What is the likelihood of a cure? If I can't be cured, will I live longer with treatment? What are my options if I don't want treatment? Will the treatment make me feel better or worse?

As a patient, Benzeevi would like to see a coordinated care system.

"Meaning when we are diagnosed, there is a team working with us, for us," she said.

Benzeevi's care runs about $200,000 per year. She has insurance, but still pays about $6,000 to $7,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

Additional Information:

Cancer is one of the deadliest and most common diseases. Cancer develops when damaged cells rapidly divide and multiply, which can form lumps or tumors. These masses often affect circulatory, nervous, and digestive systems, disrupting the functioning of these systems. Signs and symptoms will vary depending on where the cancer is. Treatment will also depend on the location of the cancer and the severity of the disease.  (Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/cancer-oncology/ and http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/signs-and-symptoms-of-cancer)

TUMORS: A tumor, known as neoplasm, is an irregular mass of cells that are classified as benign, pre-malignant, or malignant. A benign tumor is a non-cancerous mass that cannot spread throughout the body. Pre-malignant tumors are often known as pre-cancerous tumors, meaning there is a good chance that they will develop into cancer cells. A malignant tumor is a cancer tumor that grows and makes the cancer worse. In some cases, these tumors cause fatalities in patients with very little notice. These types of tumors are known to spread and multiply at a quicker rate than other cells. (Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249141.php)

CANCER CRISIS: The extreme rise of cancer and flourishing costs of healthcare has created a "crisis in cancer care delivery." The cost of cancer has almost doubled from 2004 to 2010, skyrocketing from $72 billion to $125 billion.  Strategies have been recommended to improve cancer care and make it more affordable to patients. The Institute of Medicine based their strategies on improving informational technology, making cancer care affordable, engaging with patients, fielding a coordinated workforce, turning evidence into practice, and bettering evidence-based care. (Source: http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/Chemotherapy/41495)