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Finland first to release application for tracking annual cancer costs and treatment outcomes

Press release 5.12.2018

Finland first to release an application for tracking annual cancer costs and treatment outcomes

Finland has today become the first in the world to release an application that tracks annual cancer-related costs on a national scale. Cancer is one of Finland’s most common diseases, and this application provides a basis from which to develop its treatment. The application is created by the Cancer Foundation Finland and the Nordic Healthcare Group.

Even though the number of cancer cases is on the rise, advanced treatment and early diagnosis keep their costs under control. For Finland, this means that the country’s economy should be able to handle the treatment of every cancer patient without delay and ensure high-quality outcomes. While the aging of the population results in more cancer diagnoses, many more recover from cancer today, points out Sakari Karjalainen, the Secretary General of the Cancer Foundation Finland

Researchers, decision-makers, and healthcare professionals can use our application, The Costs of Cancer, to view diagnosis- or region-specific costs, for instance. The application can itemise the costs into categories, such as specialised care, medicines, rehabilitation, travel, and sickness allowances.

–          Finland is the first country to publish annual country-wide figures for total cancer costs and treatment outcomes. The same approach should be applied to other patient groups and to the entire social services and healthcare sector, too, says Nordic Healthcare Group’s Research Director Riikka-Leena Leskelä.

The Costs of Cancer application shows how the Finnish healthcare registries make it possible to collect this type of data. It helps the providers in the planning of treatment options within the current Finnish context, taking into account that the number of cancer cases is predicted to reach 43,000 by 2030. The total costs cover both direct and indirect cancer-related costs, such as sickness allowances and disability pensions. For this purpose, the application collects performance- and cost-level data from the registries of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela). Cancer registries contain data on cancer mortality, 5-year survival rates, and newly diagnosed cases.

Cost-effective development of all health and social services

It makes sense to monitor the effectiveness of health and social services on a customer or patient group level: how a customer’s or patient’s ability to function or state of health changed, or what were the total costs. This information enables us to assess whether the resources are allocated in a way that benefits the customers most.

At the moment, we can do this for cancer: The Finnish Cancer Registry provides up-to-date survival predictions and mortality figures, and the Cancer Foundation Finland publishes the total costs arising from cancer. In the future, we aim to introduce other effectiveness indicators for information that is essential to patients (such as changes in the quality of life).

It is important to analyse cost development in relation to the number of new cancer cases and treatment results, as this information makes it possible to secure the best possible treatment for patients in the future. When we identify the factors that drive the costs up, we can modify them without risking the quality of treatment, Karjalainen says.

Cancer costs have decreased in relation to the number of new cancer cases

The Costs of Cancer application is based on two studies published in 2017 and 2018*. The study funded by LähiTapiola and the Cancer Foundation Finland analysed how the costs resulting from cancer have developed in Finland over the past decades and evaluated the impact of resources invested into cancer treatment.

The results were rather surprising: cancer-related costs showed hardly any growth in Finland in the 2010s, and were actually lower when compared to the number of new cancer patients. The total cancer costs came up to roughly EUR 927 million in 2014, while they were roughly EUR 780 million in 2009. The cost items showing the fastest growth were outpatient visits (8% a year) and medicinal products under a special reimbursement rate (6% a year). The shift from ward-based patient care into more outpatient-based care and the decrease in the disability rate have had a significant impact on these cost trends.

Finnish registries provide an excellent basis for monitoring effectiveness

Finland’s national population-wide registries are particularly comprehensive, which makes it possible to monitor the cost-effectiveness in various disease groups. This is an internationally unique feature – excluding the Nordic countries, it is very difficult or virtually impossible to obtain the overall costs for all services and all patients in other countries.

In October 2018, the Nordic Cancer Union granted funding for a two-year study that will begin in 2019. It aims to investigate the development of the costs arising from the treatment of cancer and any factors that influence it in other Nordic countries as well. The study will be conducted by the initiative and under the leadership of the Cancer Foundation Finland and the Nordic Healthcare Group.

Cancer Foundation Finland funds both clinical and basic research, as well as epidemiological and statistical research by the Finnish Cancer Registry. The results of this work are used as a basis for the development of cancer treatment in the country. Cancer Foundation Finland is a charitable organisation and the main private funder of cancer research in the country. Government subsidies for medical research by university hospitals have decreased by 72 percent in the last 16 years. During its 70-year-long history, the Foundation has had a significant role in the research-based development of cancer treatment and early detection of cancer in Finland. 70 years ago, only some 33 percent of cancer patients survived, whereas today the percentage is approaching 70 percent.


*Torkki P, Leskelä R-L, Linna M, Mäklin H, Mecklin J-P, Bono P, Kataja V and Karjalainen S. Cancer costs and outcomes in the Finnish population 2004-2014. Acta Oncologica 2017;

Torkki P, Leskelä R-L, Linna M, Mäklin H, Mecklin J-P, Bono P, Kataja V and Karjalainen S. Cancer costs and outcomes for common cancer sites in the Finnish population between 2009–2014. Acta Oncologica 2018;