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Posted on June 6, 2011 at 11:01 AM

It is striking the juxtaposition of the two major headlines today regarding cancer treatment:

Cancer costs put treatments out of reach for many

Drug to treat breast cancer may help prevent it“.

So as the news headlines herald advances in treating (and even perhaps preventing) breast cancer, we also a faced with a grim reality: many who require cancer treatment simply cannot afford it, whether or not they have health insurance.

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Rather than rehash the arguments, pro and con, for the high cost of cancer drugs, it is much more important to acknowledge a simple fact: receiving life-saving cancer care should never bankrupt any individual or their family. In a country where we spend 17% of our GDP on healthcare, it is simply unacceptable that those who are diagnosed with breast cancer or lung cancer may have to choose between paying the mortgage and saving their life.

What is perhaps most disturbing is that the skyrocketing costs of cancer drugs has put many of the newest and best treatments out of reach for every American but those who have the most Cadillac of health insurance plans or who, most likely, have the disposable income to pay out of pocket. This creates a marked disparity between those likely to be saved by blockbuster drugs in oncology: those who are rich and those who are not.

I don’t claim to have the solution to this problem, but it is, for certain, a major problem of social justice in health when those who are among those in the greatest need for care cannot receive it.

Summer Johnson McGee, PhD

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