The Doctor Is In: Investing in Fighting Cancer

Q:  We spend so much on healthcare in the United States. Unlike other countries that spend less and have better results, why don't we have anything to show for it?

A:  Criticisms of administrative waste in any system of healthcare funding and delivery are legitimate. But in terms of cancer survival, screening rates and the use of advanced treatment, we have significant returns on our investment.

Cancer Survival

Compared with women in the U.S., women with breast cancer in Europe are four times more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage-after the tumor has spread. Their survival rates are lower for the disease than women in the United States, which has the highest survival rates in the world for breast cancer.

According to the World Health Organization and the British medical journal Lancet, five-year survival rates for 13 of 16 types of cancer (including bladder, prostate, breast, uterine, lung, thyroid, and malignant melanoma) are consistently higher for patients in the United States than for Europeans.  These figures report statistics for all Americans, not only those with private insurance.

British citizens suffering from lung cancer are half as likely to survive for five years compared with Americans diagnosed with the disease.

The American survival rate for leukemia is almost 50% while the European rate is significantly lower, just 35%.  Esophageal carcinoma is often deadly, but compared with their European counterparts, American patients are more than twice as likely to survive the disease for five years.

Cancer Screening

Despite the fact that countries with a system of socialized healthcare supposedly promote and fund prevention, actual screening rates tell a different story.

Screening rates may contribute to the survival advantage for American patients, particularly for cancers that can be identified at early, treatable stages.