A medical bill (Credit: iStock)

I am sure you know that cancer is the leading cause of life years lost in the United States. You’ve seen in the media that early detection saves lives. Have you ever thought about how to detect cancer early? Would you recognize a cancer symptom?

About 40% of your clients will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is one of the most expensive diseases to treat. In 2014, the U.S. health system spent roughly $87.8 billion on direct cancer-related health care, $4 billion of which was spent directly by patients and their families. Much of this cost is undoubtedly associated with expensive multi-disciplinary treatments for advanced stages of cancer.

Resources

  • A 15-40 Connection academic journal article about the economic impact of the early detection and diagnosis of cancer is available here.
  • An article about influenza prevention is available here.

What would the cost of fighting advanced stages of cancer do to your client’s portfolio?

If everyone detected the five most common cancers (breast, colon, lung, skin, prostate) early, the savings would be $10.7 billion annually on treatment costs alone in the U.S. Earlier diagnosis of all cancer types could save an estimated $26 billion annually.

How do you prepare your clients?

There are two important actions clients need to take.

One is to get their screenings. Screenings can detect cancer at their earliest possible stage, before symptoms can be noticed. The limitation is that there are 100 plus types of cancer, and recommended screenings for only four (colon cancer screening, for everyone; breast and cervical cancer screening, for women; and lung cancer screening, for heavy smokers). Some physicians suggest prostate and skin screenings as well.

The second action is for clients to use 3 Steps Detect, to help them recognize the most common cancer symptom — a subtle health change that persists for two weeks — and to know how to work with their doctors to accelerate the time to diagnosis.

Many people ignore or minimize health changes like these, or accept them as a new normal. The delay gives cancer time to progress to advanced stages that are more difficult and expensive to treat and most difficult to cure.

Encourage your clients to play an active role in their health care.

Early detection allows medical providers to administer effective treatment sooner than would have otherwise been possible, significantly reducing both direct and indirect costs to patients and the health care system.

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Tricia Laursen Tricia Laursen is president and executive director of 15-40 Connection, a national education and advocacy organization that is teaching people how to detect cancer early.