This report provides estimates of Australia’s health system expenditure on treatment and care for those with cancer, as well as on cancer screening.

The report presents estimates of cancer expenditure by age group, sex, Indigenous status, geography, and over time; by area of expenditure and for a range of types of cancer, as well as expenditure on cancer as a result of health risk factors.

Expenditure estimates included in this report are based on health system expenditure that can be attributed to cancer. Not included in this analysis are expenditure on items such as capital goods, including equipment used exclusively for the treatment of individual chronic diseases (such as, linear accelerators for cancer) and expenditure on health administration other than for cancer screening programs.

Not all health system expenditure can be allocated to specific diseases. There are other limitations to the data, and these are explained in Appendix A.

Main findings

  • In 2015–16, health system expenditure on cancer and other neoplasms was estimated to be $10.1 billion, comprising $9.7 billion on diagnosing and treating cancer and $409 million on the three national population cancer screening programs—bowel, breast and cervical.
  • Cancer ranked third in terms of Australia’s estimated total health system expenditure on diseases, and accounted for 8.6% of total disease expenditure.
  • Of total cancer expenditure, 36% related to admitted patients in public hospitals, 22% to admitted patients in private hospitals, 13% to pharmaceuticals (including chemotherapy), 10% to public hospital outpatient clinic patients, 7% to medical specialists and 4% to national cancer screening programs.
  • The cancer type with the highest expenditure was breast cancer ($1,056 million, including $269 million on the national screening program), followed by non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC, $1,005 million), bowel cancer ($876 million, including $56 million on the National Bowel Cancer Screening program), prostate cancer ($684 million), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL, $481 million), lung cancer ($448 million), myeloma ($322 million), kidney cancer ($198 million), chronic myeloid leukaemia ($182 million) and brain and central nervous system cancer ($180 million), which together comprise 54% of all health system expenditure on cancer.
  • Cancer expenditure was slightly higher for females ($4,982 million or 50.2%) than for males ($4,951 million). For comparison, 54.7% of cancers were diagnosed in males in 2016.
  • The highest expenditure cancers for males were prostate cancer (13% of cancer expenditure for males), NMSC (11%), bowel cancer (10% including the national screening program), NHL (6%) and lung cancer (5%).
  • The highest expenditure cancers for females were breast cancer (21% of cancer expenditure for females, including the national screening program), NMSC (9%), bowel cancer (8% including screening), lung cancer (4%) and NHL (4%).
  • Compared with non-Indigenous people, a higher proportion of hospital admitted patient cancer expenditure on Indigenous people was in public hospitals (73% vs 52%), and a much lower proportion was in private hospitals (6% vs 33%).
  • Risk factors such as high sun exposure, tobacco use and overweight and obesity, were responsible for $2.7 billion of cancer expenditure, which was 42% of expenditure on the cancers known to be affected by these risk factors.