Economics of Palliative Care for Cancer: Interpreting Current Evidence, Mapping Future Priorities for Research

J Clin Oncol. 2020 Mar 20;38(9):980-986. doi: 10.1200/JCO.18.02294. Epub 2020 Feb 5.


The National Cancer Institute estimates that $154 billion will be spent on care for people with cancer in 2019, distributed across the year after diagnosis (31%), the final year of life (31%), and continuing care between those two (38%). Projections of future costs estimate persistent growth in care expenditures. Early research studies on the economics of palliative care have reported a general pattern of cost savings during inpatient hospital admissions and the end-of-life phase. Recent research has demonstrated more complex dynamics, but expanding palliative care capacity to meet clinical guidelines and population health needs seems to save costs. Quantifying these cost savings requires additional research, because there is significant variance in estimates of the effects of treatment on costs, depending on the timing of intervention, the primary diagnosis, and the overall illness burden. Because ASCO guidelines state that palliative care should be provided concurrently with other treatment from the point of diagnosis onward for all metastatic cancer, new and ambitious research is required to evaluate the cost effects of palliative care across the entire disease trajectory. We propose a series of ways to reach the guideline goals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning / economics*
  • Biomedical Research
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / economics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Palliative Care / economics*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Societies, Medical
  • Standard of Care