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Costs of Childhood Cancer

What are the financial costs of childhood cancer?  Cancer is one of the most expensive medical conditions to treat.  You think you have the best health insurance.  But what is the financial cost when a child has cancer?  Your health insurance coverage may not be what you think it is.

Costs of Childhood Cancer

Costs of Childhood Cancer

Cancer is one of the most expensive medical conditions to treat.   Many families face major financial challenges when their child is diagnosed with cancer.  The many specialists, different tests, treatments and prescription drugs can add up very quickly.  Health insurance has out-of-pocket costs.  The copayments, deductibles and coinsurance payments accumulate from detection to treatment and for aftercare screenings.

Several studies have shown that cancer patients and survivors are more likely to have financial distress than are people without cancer. 

Cancer affects the ability to work, and that affects the ability to pay for things like food, electricity, and housing expenses, not to mention the medical bills that keep going up.  Many studies have shown that families with a child diagnosed with cancer may have to cut back on the hours they work, or leave their job completely.  Both of which can affect their health insurance coverage.

Families Living in Poverty - Cancer death rates are about 20% higher among families living in the poorest U.S. counties when compared to residents of the affluent counties.

Costs of Childhood Cancer

There are several risks to having cancer and financial challenges.

  • Patients may not take their medicine as directed so they can save money
  • They may miss treatments due to costs
  • They may not be able to meet their dietary needs
  • Financial challenges can lead to bankruptcy leading to a lower quality of life
  • They may experience more depression and poor mental health due to the money worries
  • They may become less social

What to do about the costs of childhood cancer:

Talk.  Talk to your health care providers, including your doctor if you think the costs of cancer care could be a burden.  While it may feel uncomfortable at first, you can only receive help if people are aware that you need help.  The more your health care team knows, the more they can be your partner in your care.  They may also be able to point you to resources that may help.

Hospital social workers may be able to suggest Programs or Organizations that may help you pay for cancer treatment.

At your job, talk to your human resources department.  They can answer questions about your insurance plan.

Get help understanding the medical bills.  Talk to someone in the billing department, a social worker at the hospital.  There are also professional services to help with bills and insurance.  Patient advocates, and medical billing advocates.  Although they may charge a fee, in the long run, they may be able to save you money by managing the costs of care.

For additional information of the cost of cancer, please visit

Disclaimer:  The information in these summaries should not be used to make decisions about insurance reimbursement. More information on insurance coverage is available on on the Managing Cancer Care page.

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