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Caring for cancer

Countries are not doing as well as they could in the battle against cancer, according to Cancer Care: Assuring Quality to Improve Survival. Cancer remains one of the leading health care challenges in all OECD countries, where more than 5 million new cases are diagnosed every year. 

Indeed, the disease is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths and, in terms of potential life years lost, is a bigger problem than heart attacks and strokes for both men and women.

Yet, an estimated one-third of cases could be cured if detected on time and properly treated, and another third could be prevented entirely if more far-reaching public health measures were in place. The condition currently consumes around 5% of all health care costs. The increasing incidence of cancer, prolonged survival, and high costs of new drugs and technologies mean that spending on the disease is likely to increase even further. But governments aren’t the only ones taking a financial hit. Cancer patients and those who care for them also bear significant financial and social costs. Once these are taken into account, the global economic impact of premature death and disability from cancer is around US$900 billion, larger than that for heart disease.

The characteristics of good clinical cancer care are well established. They include early detection, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring and palliative care. But preventive strategies are also vital. A holistic approach, including psychosocial support and effective communication between clinical teams, patients and carers, is critical.

How can policymakers design a cancer care system to ensure that high-quality care is consistently available to all cancer patients? How can they ensure that the quality of care is continuously improving?

While some countries are lagging behind in cancer care performance, other countries’ survival and mortality rates suggest that they have designed care systems that make them global leaders in the fi ght against cancer. Cancer Care: Assuring Quality to Improve Survival aims to share best practices, spur on health care reform and improve cancer care performance.

ISBN : 9789264181052 

See www.oecd.org/health/health-systems/ and www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Focus-on-Health_Cancer-Care-2013.pdf

©OECD Observer No 297, Q4 2013