The Cost of Cancer

A new Cancer Prevention Clinic, at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center campus, is serving residents of western Washington. While a number of other cancer centers offer specialized “executive-style “prevention consultation/ services, this is the first in the nation to offer such services at a price point that is affordable for the average consumer; between $400 and $600 out-of-pocket.

According to clinic director Scott Ramsey, who is an M.D.with a Ph.D. in economics, cancer is among the most expensive diseases treated in the United States and the second leading cause of death. Studies suggest that with changes in our behavior and wider use of screening, we could cut cancer by 50 percent. He is keenly interested in the cost effectiveness of prevention as opposed to treatment.

The clinic is open to anyone; patients don’t need a referral. The clinic’s doctors, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists and fitness counselors tailor a prevention program to each individual based on their risk factors. Interested patients also are given an opportunity to take part in a number of ongoing cancer-prevention studies at the Hutchinson Center. Five to 10 years from now, Ramsey and colleagues envision the Prevention Clinic as a widely used service that educates patients and shares the latest research findings on early detection and prevention. The center also hopes that doctors in training will take advantage of the clinic to learn more about prevention.

Consider the facts regarding the economic burden of cancer:

According to the American Cancer Society, the total cost of cancer in the United States last year was $209.9 billion. But, in the United States and Europe from 2002 to 2003, less than 10 percent of cancer-research funding was devoted to prevention.

Direct costs of cancer include treatment and rehabilitation, while indirect costs include lost work time and premature death. Other costs that are hard to quantify include healthinsurance premiums, and nonmedical costs such as wigs, prostheses, child or elder care, transportation and housekeeping assistance.

Prevention and screening for early detection are often an after thought in medicine. Doctors are taught to treat disease, not necessarily to teach patients how to prevent it. And insurance companies usually pay for screening but often won’t pay for preventive measures – even though it would cost them far less to prevent cancer than treat it.

For more info about the clinic on the SCCA Web site:

Kristen Lidke Woodward is the Senior Media Relations Manager at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. For more information about the Hutchinson Center and its research, please visit,