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Cancer Crisis Puts a Deadline on Health Care Reform

We’re about to see a lot more cancer. According to a new report by the Institute of Medicine, by the year 2030 2.6 million more Americans will get cancer every year, a 45 percent increase over current rates. That along would be cause for serious concern, but when you add our poor cancer care standards to a growing number of cases, this data quickly begins to point towards a crisis. NBC news:

So someone with colon cancer who goes to his community hospital maybe treated by a surgeon who doesn’t know to take out certain lymph glands for testing to see if the cancer has spread, says [report co-writer Patricia] Ganz. “They may do too many tests,” she told NBC News.

Often doctors order too many CT scans or unnecessary MRIs, Ganz said. “These kinds of variations lead to potential risk or harm to the patient,” she said. “Obviously if you don’t have good access, you won’t get good care.” Plus it can be costly — and patients often must pay a large chunk of this pricey and unnecessary care.

If we needed another reason to prioritize health care reform, this is it. Skyrocketing cancer cases are not just about cancer; they’re part of the larger eldercare crisis that will soon hit the US. The diseases we associate with aging—not just cancer, but dementia and other conditions—will stress an already inefficient system.

One important solution the article points to is the power of new big data technology to standardize care nationwide, so that average patients can get equally good treatment at a small clinic as at a huge cancer research center. Unless we change how care is preformed and delivered along these lines, we may wind up with a system that is overwhelmed as the NHS.

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  • ljgude

    In my forthcoming book, “The Intelligent Person’s Guide to the Internet” (Warning hoax alert) I will be cautioning that the apocalyptic narrative common to the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gutter Press is best avoided by discerning bloggers. Resist the temptation to seize on a 45% increase in cancer, just because global warming has lost it’s kick.

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