By Frieda Wiley
While the Affordable Care Act undoubtedly has increased expansion of coverage to individuals who either might have been denied coverage or would not have been able to afford it otherwise, managing the costs of health care remains an ongoing struggle in the United States. Moreover, some disease states are undoubtedly more difficult—not to mention more costly—to treat than others, and cancers affecting the central nervous system are certainly no exception. In fact, neurological cancers are among the most expensive to treat.
And despite the sizable cost of treating cancer in general—not to mention those types that are neurological in origin—genetic testing may prove helpful in optimizing therapy while potentially reducing additional costs incurred from less-appropriate treatments. This is because genetic testing enables clinicians to tailor therapy in a manner that might not only help customize treatment options, but facilitate an accurate diagnosis and increase treatment success rates in the following manners:
- Genetic testing can help identify the type of brain cancer a patient may have, as recently seen with glioblastomas.
- Cancers with tumorous manifestations may be heterogeneous in nature, so each section of the tumor may respond differently to treatment. Therefore, genetic testing allows characterization of the tumor and helps to tailor treatment that appropriately targets each different region of the tumor.
- Some cancers express certain genes, and genetic testing can help clinicians tailor drug therapy to target cancer cells should the patient’s treatment plan include chemotherapy.
Only time will reveal whether genetic testing ever becomes a routine option to optimize treatment in patients without being limited by the restraints of cost and accessibility. But hopefully, through the continued education of health care providers and managed care professionals, along with additional support from insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry, more patients will begin to feel that diagnosis of neurological malignancies and other cancers is not an automatic death sentence conferred by lack of access to care or socioeconomic standing.
Frieda Wiley, Pharm.D., C.G.P, R.Ph., is a board-certified consultant pharmacist and freelance medical writer based in east texas. to see more of her work, visit her website at www.medvonmedia.com.