Background. Cancer-specific medical care costs are used by health service researchers, medical decision analysts, and health care policymakers. The SEER-Medicare database is a unique data resource that makes it possible to derive incidence- and prevalence-based estimates of cancer-related medical care costs by site and stage of disease, by treatment approach, and for age and gender strata for individuals older than 65 years.
Objectives. This paper describes the cost-related data available in the SEER-Medicare database, and discusses techniques and methods that have been used to derive various cost estimates from these data. The limitations of SEER-Medicare data as a source of cost estimates are also discussed.
Results. Examples of cost estimates for colorectal and breast cancer derived from SEER-Medicare are presented, including estimates of incidence-based cost (average cost per patient) by the initial, terminal, and continuing care phases of cancer treatment. Estimates of cancer-related treatment costs, costs by type of treatment, and long-term costs are presented, as are prevalence-based costs (aggregate Medicare and national expenditures) by cancer type.