Cancer Care Costs Are Rising—Here’s How a Center of Excellence Program Can Help

cancer center of excellence

Though recent medical breakthroughs in oncology have led to more effective cancer treatment and better prognoses (both great pieces of news!), cancer care costs have captured an outsized proportion of healthcare expenditure charts.

Nationwide costs attributable to cancer care are expected to surge by over 30% from 2015 to 2030. One in two employers identifies cancer care as the number one driver of employer healthcare spend, with 86% ranking it among their top three cost concerns.

So, what’s fueling this unprecedented rise in cancer care costs? And how can a cancer center of excellence help employers mitigate negative impacts for themselves and their employees?

3 reasons cancer care costs are rising

1. More people are being diagnosed with cancer than ever before 

An increasing number of Americans are receiving cancer diagnoses, with more than two million new cancer cases expected in 2024 alone. This increase in diagnoses leads to higher gross costs for cancer treatment as more individuals require it.

A significant contributing factor to this increase is the aging population of the United States. The median age of the population is steadily increasing: In 1980, the median age was 30, but by 2022, one third of states boasted a median age above 40—and the median age of the “youngest” state, Utah, is just under 32.

Age remains one of the highest risk factors for cancer—as we age, we acquire a higher proportion of cells with mutations, which ultimately foster ideal conditions for cancerous cells. These mutations can occur as a result of environmental exposure or poor eating or exercise habits. They can also result from decreased immune function, which weakens as we grow older. So it makes sense that, as the population of the U.S. ages, the incidence of cancer diagnoses also rises.

However, it’s not just elderly populations experiencing spikes in diagnoses. From 1995 to 2020, cancer diagnoses in people younger than 65 increased by 3%. The American Cancer Society also warns of an increase in cancer rates among those under 50, as colorectal and cervical cancers and oral cancers associated with HPV are on the rise in this age group.

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that the likeliness of being diagnosed with colon cancer is two times higher for those born after 1990 (as compared to people born in 1950)—and four times more likely to be diagnosed with rectal cancer. This poses a particular concern for employers, whose workforces often include a significant proportion of this age group.

This points to a need for holistic cancer care, which includes risk reduction strategies like early detection procedures, education around healthier lifestyle habits, access to effective treatment therapies, and support for survivorship and end-of-life care.

2. More diagnoses are happening at a later stage

Quite concerningly, advanced-stage cancer diagnoses have been on the rise since the mid-2000s. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue of late-stage cancer diagnoses, with 18% of employers reporting a higher prevalence of advanced cancers due to delayed screenings, and 41% anticipating a similar impact.

For example, not only are colorectal cancers rising in people under 50, but most of the colorectal cancer diagnoses for this age group are at an advanced stage. In addition, The Advisory Board found that, from March to June 2020, there was a 16% rise in late-stage diagnoses for all cancers; and from January to August of 2020, there was a staggering 50% increase “in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with advanced disease.”

Delays in diagnosis can lead to more complicated and costly cancer treatment, as advanced-stage cancers often require more extensive and intensive medical interventions. Not only can later-stage diagnoses significantly inflate healthcare costs for payers and patients, but they can unfortunately lead to worse health outcomes as well.

3. Breakthroughs in cancer treatment

Recent medical advancements have brought about significant progress in cancer treatment—the overall cancer death rate fell 32% from 1991 to 2019, largely due to more effective detection and prevention plans and increasingly effective therapies.

Cutting-edge cancer treatments such as immunotherapy work to re-engage the immune system to identify and kill cancer cells. The precision of these treatments allows for targeted therapy with better outcomes, increasing life expectancies for people with cancer and granting them more time with their loved ones.

The bad news is that these breakthrough therapies often come with exorbitant price tags. For example, the most expensive cancer drugs start at just over $15,000 per month and top out at a staggering $99,000 per month, placing significant financial strain on patients, their employer, and their health plan.

How a cancer center of excellence (COE) program can help

Cancer center of excellence programs are proven solutions to the rising costs of cancer care. By partnering with high-performing cancer centers, these programs ensure that employees receive the most effective treatments at predictable prices, removing the stress of unexpected out-of-pocket costs or fluctuating treatment expenses.

Programs such as Carrum Health incorporate comprehensive care coordination, ensuring that oncology patients receive seamless and efficient care throughout their cancer journey, further optimizing outcomes and minimizing unnecessary costs. These programs also benefit employers, allowing them to rein in expenses while prioritizing the health and well-being of their workforce.


The State of Oncology Benefits 2024





The rising costs of cancer care represent a significant challenge for employers and healthcare systems alike. As the incidence of cancer continues to rise and treatment modalities become more sophisticated, finding sustainable solutions to manage costs will remain important. However, by implementing strategies such as a cancer center of excellence program, employers can mitigate these rising expenses while still providing their employees with access to high-quality care.

As the landscape of cancer care evolves, concerted effort from all stakeholders is necessary to ensure that quality cancer care remains accessible and affordable for all.

Learn more about Carrum Health’s center of excellence offering for cancer care.


The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only. No material is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.