Treatment patterns and cost implications of increased positron emission tomography imaging use since Medicare approval in 1998 are not well understood. We examined rates of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy and inpatient and total health care costs between 1998 and 2005 among Medicare beneficiaries with non–small-cell lung cancer.
Patients in this retrospective cohort study were 51,374 Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with non–small-cell lung cancer between 1996 and 2005. The main outcome measures were receipt of surgical resection, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy and inpatient and total health care costs within 1 year of diagnosis.
Between 1996–1997 and 2004–2005, the proportion of patients undergoing surgical resection decreased from 29% to 25%, the proportion receiving radiation therapy decreased from 49% to 43%, and inpatient costs decreased from $28,900 to $26,900. The proportion of patients receiving chemotherapy increased from 25% to 40% and total costs increased from $47,300 to $52,200 (p < 0.001 for all comparisons). Changes in use and costs remained after adjustment for shifting demographic characteristics during the study period.
Adoption of positron emission tomography between 1998 and 2005 was accompanied by decreases in rates of surgery and radiotherapy and in short-term inpatient costs among Medicare beneficiaries with non–small-cell lung cancer, although there was an increase in chemotherapy and overall costs.