The American Cancer Society estimates that 10,380 children under age 15 and about 5,000 teens aged 15 to 19 will be diagnosed with cancer this year in the United States. The rate of children surviving cancer for 5 years or more is growing thanks to improved treatment, but so is the rate of children and teens who are diagnosed with cancer.
The treatments for cancer keep improving but the cost keeps rising as well, putting a great burden on many patients and families. In addition to the enormous emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis in a young patient, such a diagnosis can also place a heavy financial toll on young patients and their families. Furthermore, paying for cancer often involves frequent travel to the cancer clinic, hospitalizations, infusions, and surgeries, in addition to the cost of drugs.
And although the cost of treatment is the last thing anyone wants to discuss when a young patient is diagnosed with cancer, not having the financial resources to support the necessary treatments can add complications to the patient’s well-being and even survival, and place an additional burden on the family.
Very few studies have focused on the financial burden resulting from a diagnosis of cancer in children. A recent study published in 2014 in the Journal of Oncology Practice reported that families living in rural areas had a higher financial burden when a child was diagnosed with cancer than families living in urban areas, possibly because they had longer travel to the cancer center, and may also had to pay for lodging away from home.
Finding Financial Assistance
Many drug companies today provide financial assistance for patients who use their drugs and have insufficient health insurance coverage or limited family funding, provided they meet certain financial criteria.
Many national organizations and tumor-specific societies and foundations also offer financial assistance specifically for young patients with cancer and their families. For patients who meet Medicaid criteria, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP, is a federal insurance program for children in financial need.
Knowing what resources are available to you can help ease the financial burden and ensure that the patient doesn’t have to choose between getting treatment and paying daily bills.
The Table lists some examples among the many financial assistance programs available to young patients with cancer and their families, and cover a variety of expenses, including general cancer-related expenses.
General expenses/rent: For example, the Brenda Mehling Cancer Fund and the Nicki Leach Foundation cover general expenses for young patients with cancer, ranging from copay to paying the rent.
Fertility preservation: Cancer treatments can affect fertility. Fertility preservation procedures (such as sperm and egg freezing) are often not covered by insurance. The THRIVE Mariposa Program and the LIVESTRONG Foundation provide financial assistance for fertility preservation or treatment.
Air/ground travel: Compass to Care and Air Care Alliance help pay for air and other travel expenses for patients and their families who need to travel to their treatment centers.
Tumor-specific organizations: Some organizations are focused on a specific type of cancer and offer financial assistance to patients with that condition. The Colon Cancer Alliance’s Blue Note Fund helps patients with colon cancer. The Bone Marrow Foundation provides financial assistance to patients undergoing bone marrow/stem-cell transplantation. Mission4Maureen helps patients with brain cancer. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society helps patients with these types of blood cancer pay their insurance premium and copay.
Paying for college: Several organizations offer scholarships for college, as listed in the Table.
American Cancer Society
Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition
Children’s Health Insurance Program/Medicaid