Combating the Economic Burden of Cancer

Numerous studies have demonstrated that individuals with cancer are at higher risk of experiencing financial difficulty than are individuals without cancer.

Historically, cancer has been one of the most costly medical conditions to treat in the United States.  Compared to a decade ago, cancer patients are receiving increasingly expensive chemotherapy and biologics, both alone and in combination. The use of expensive supportive agents and hematopoietic growth factors has also increased.  The cost of newly introduced chemotherapy and supportive drug-based treatments is growing, and prices higher than $10,000 a month for individual drugs and biologic agents are common.

At the same time, commercial insurers in the United States have increasingly shifted medical care costs to patients through higher premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance and copayment rates.

In addition, it is not uncommon to see significant productivity loss, hence economic loss, as measured as the inability to work or pursue usual activities, days lost from work or disability days, reduction in work hours, and days spent in bed.

Rates of bankruptcy directly reflect the economic problems faced by cancer survivors.  One of the few studies to measure the incidence of financial hardship reported that 1.7% of cancer survivors filed for bankruptcy in the 5 years after diagnosis. Cancer survivors were 2.7 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than individuals without a cancer history.

Given the terrible economic burden Cancer Thrivers suffer under we need to accept assistance when it is available.  There are a number of organizations and programs that can provide some economic assistance both for our everyday expenses and to help us obtain these very expensive drugs and treatments


  • For drug purchase assistance one of the first stops you should make is to the pharmaceutical company's, who provides the drug or treatment, website. Most of these companies do have special programs to assist patients in need of their drug, usually based upon economic need. You can find these programs by “Googling” the name of the drug and adding the words, patient assistance.

Patient Advocate Foundation - They provide co-pay relief, patient assistance programs, general financial help, and scholarship assistance.

Needy Meds -  They provide a free prescription and over the counter discount card to anyone going to their website.

Pals Lab -    They can arrange for you to have your laboratory tests done at a significant discount.

Patient Access Network, (PAN) -   Like Cancer ABCs, the Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN) is an independent nonprofit organization.  It is dedicated to helping people with life-threatening, chronic and rare diseases, including advanced cancer, who have either federal and commercial insurance coverage.  

They aid with the out-of-pocket costs for prescribed medications. To become more efficient, PAN is introducing a new program, FundFinder.  FundFinder is anew web-based app that notifies its users when a disease fund opens at any charitable foundation.

 You should Register online to receive notifications from FundFinder. This organization helps under insured individuals with the cost of their drugs.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) – The NCI provides financial, insurance, and legal information along with information on government-sponsored programs and other national organizations that offer financial aid for cancer-related expenses, including treatment, co-pays, travel, lodging, etc.

Cancer Care -  They offer general counseling assistance as well as financial help for cancer survivors.

Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (CFAC)  They provide a searchable guide to other organizations that provide financial assistance to Cancer Thrivers.

 ASCO Directory of Financial Assistance Activities

Mesothelioma Guide provides patients with Mesothelioma and their loved ones with resources, answers, and information over a wide spectrum of free assistance options.

Parts of this post have been taken directly (with permission) from “Financial Toxicity and Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”