The cost of cancer is overwhelming. In the US, cancer treatments can be so expensive that some patients forego them. With medical expenses a leading cause of bankruptcy in America, avoiding such a fate while getting the treatment you need is a real challenge.
On GoFundMe, we see people from all walks of life and from all over the country starting fundraisers for cancer. As with any other fundraiser on our site, we have a 0% platform fee.
We’re here to provide you with helpful information about financial help for cancer patients. This post is one of many free resources we offer. It serves as a brief overview of the common physical, financial, and emotional effects of cancer—along with financial resources that can help you get the treatment you need.
The cost of cancer
A 2010 study by the National Cancer Institute estimated that the amount Americans spend on cancer treatments each year would increase 27% between 2010 and 2020, to reach $158 billion per year.
A cancer patient’s expenses includes lab tests, hospital stays, home care, and lost income, which can quickly add up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. A 2011 Duke University medical study surveying 216 cancer patients (of whom all but one had medical insurance) found the average out-of-pocket costs for treatment exceeded $700 a month—with some of these patients not filling prescriptions, rationing medications, skipping treatment appointments, and opting out of recommended tests in order to save money.
Financial assistance for cancer patients: It pays to ask
Even with private insurance policies, government programs, and nonprofit aid, many cancer patients still need additional financial assistance.
A 2013 study found that most cancer patients would like to speak with their doctors about the cost of their treatment, but many often don’t because they fear it will compromise their care. The same study found that patients who did bring up the subject believed that it helped decrease their costs.
If you’re having trouble wording your financial concerns, here are some easy ways to bring up the subject as you develop your treatment plan:
- “I’m worried about how much cancer treatment will cost. What resources are available to me?”
- “I know this may be expensive. Where can I go to get an idea of the total costs of treatment?”
- “Will my health insurance pay for this treatment? How much of the total cost will it cover?”
- “I’m concerned about the cost of this treatment. Are there other treatment options you would recommend that are less expensive?”
If you have questions about financial assistance programs specific to you, speak with your doctor or hospital social worker—the hospital business office should have helpful information and additional resources. Local services or volunteer organizations may also offer financial assistance but may have limited resources.
Government financial assistance for cancer patients
A number of federal and state programs provide financial help to cancer patients. While most government assistance programs are for low-income households only, each has unique eligibility requirements. Check to see if you qualify.
- Social Security
- Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. Administration on Aging
- Veterans Administration
Financial assistance from pharmaceutical companies
Search the website of the drug company that produces your medication to see if it has a patient assistance program. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance has a list of pharmaceutical programs providing financial help for cancer patients. Note that your doctor may be able to prescribe medications that qualify for these programs. Services often differ under pharmaceutical assistance plans, but some may include:
- Financial help with insurance reimbursement
- Referrals to copay-relief programs
- Help with the prescription assistance application process
- Discounted or free medication for those who qualify
Financial assistance from nonprofits
With cancer expenses climbing, several nonprofit organizations now exist to assist cancer patients who need financial help. Some organizations may support those with a specific type of cancer, and each organization has unique eligibility requirements:
- CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation
- Chronic Disease Fund
- Healthwell Foundation
- The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Co-Pay Assistance Program
Fundraising for cancer patients
When you’re fighting cancer, it helps to have a strong support system from friends and family—but unless they’ve been down this road, they may not know how to help when a loved one is dealing with cancer.
Fundraising for cancer patients is an excellent way to show your support and offset mounting medical expenses. A fundraising page also creates a space for friends and family to stay connected and leave words of encouragement. You and/or the beneficiary can easily post text, photo, and video updates to let loved ones know how things are going.
By combining the power of crowdfunding with social sharing and interaction, cancer fundraising can help lighten the financial burden and lift spirits. We’ve seen this time and again with cancer fundraisers, including those like #RichardsArmy Against Lymphoma, Cancer Sucks: Fitz Fights Melanoma, and Help Dave fight a brain tumor.
Show your support for a friend fighting cancer today
Every day, cancer patients and their loved ones raise funds on GoFundMe. We have a 0% platform fee, and you can begin withdrawing funds as soon as you start receiving donations.
We’ve made it as easy to set up a cancer fundraising page. Each GoFundMe fundraiser is integrated seamlessly with Facebook and Twitter; you can also import your email contacts with a few clicks.