BACKGROUND: For patients with early-stage lung cancer (ESLC) and severe comorbidities, the cost-effectiveness of early intervention may be reduced by screening and treatment-related morbidity and mortality in addition to the risk for non-cancer-related deaths.
OBJECTIVES: The use of bronchoscopic treatment (BT) for centrally located ESLC as minimally invasive technique has raised questions whether this approach will be more cost-effective than standard surgical resection in the above-mentioned cohort of patients.
METHODS: The cost-effectiveness of BT of 32 medically inoperable patients with intraluminal tumor has been compared to a matched control group of surgically treated stage IA cancer patients.
RESULTS: Median follow-up after BT for ESLC has been 5 years (range 2-10) versus 6.7 years (range 2-10) for the surgical group. Five patients (16%) developed subsequent primaries/local recurrences after BT versus 4 (12.5%) in the surgical group. The respective percentages of actual survival during follow-up have been 50 and 41%, non-lung-cancer-related death 22 and 31% and lung-cancer-related death 28% in both groups, respectively. So far, the average costs per individual for early management by BT have been Euro 22,638 by surgery, and total expenses have been Euro 209,492 and Euro 724,403, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite the worse initial health status of patients treated with BT, actual survival rates and costs for early intervention underscore the superior cost-effectiveness of BT as early intervention in properly selected individuals with ESLC in the central airways.