PURPOSE: Younger women (under age 45 years) diagnosed with breast cancer often face more aggressive tumors, higher treatment intensity, lower survival rates, and greater financial hardship. The purpose of this study was to estimate breast cancer costs by stage at diagnosis during the first 18 months of treatment for privately insured younger women.
METHODS: We analyzed North Carolina cancer registry data linked to claims data from private insurers from 2003 to 2010. Breast cancer patients were split into two cohorts: a younger and older group aged 21-44 and 45-64 years, respectively. We conducted a cohort study and matched women with and without breast cancer using age, ZIP, and Charlson Comorbidity Index. We calculated mean excess costs between breast cancer and non-breast cancer patients at 6, 12, and 18 months.
RESULTS: For younger women, AJCC 6th edition stage II cancer was the most common at diagnosis (40%), followed by stage I (34%). On the other hand, older women had more stage I (46%) cancer followed by stage II (34%). The excess costs for younger and older women at 12 months were $97,486 (95% confidence interval [CI] $93,631-101,341) and $75,737 (95% CI $73,962-77,512), respectively. Younger breast cancer patients had both a higher prevalence of later-stage disease and higher within-stage costs.
CONCLUSIONS: The study reports high costs of treatment for both younger and older women than a non-cancer comparison group; however, the estimated excess cost was significantly higher for younger women. The financial implications of breast cancer treatment costs for younger women need to be explored in future studies.