Mental health comorbidities are commonplace among patients with cancer and have been associated with adverse health outcomes and elevated health care costs. Given the rapidly evolving cancer care landscape, an updated understanding of the prevalence and costs of mental health conditions among patients with cancer is needed. This study assessed the incremental costs of anxiety and depression among Medicare beneficiaries with cancer.
This retrospective cohort study used the SEER-Medicare database. Patients diagnosed with melanoma, breast, lung, prostate, or colorectal cancer between July 2013 and December 2017 were followed for at least 12 months and up to 36 months after cancer diagnosis. Patients were categorized on the basis of anxiety/depression (AD) diagnosis: (1) predating cancer, (2) onset after cancer, or (3) no AD. Multivariable regression was used to estimate differences in all-cause incremental costs (before after cancer) between the three groups.
Of 230,626 patients, 10% had AD before their cancer diagnosis and 22% were diagnosed after cancer. In the first year after cancer diagnosis, average monthly health care costs were $5,750 in US dollars (USD) for patients with newly onset, $5,208 (USD) for patients with preexisting, and $3,919 (USD) for patients without a diagnosis of AD. The incremental cost of cancer was the greatest among patients with newly onset AD-$1,458 (USD) per month greater than those with no AD. Similar patterns were observed across cancer types and stages.
One in three Medicare beneficiaries with cancer in this study had a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. Newly onset AD is associated with an increase in health care costs of $17,496 (USD) per year. Screening and management of mental health conditions for patients with cancer should be part of coordinated oncology care.