Breast cancer is the predominant cancer among American women and the second most frequent cause of cancer deaths in women. It is painful, stressful, possibly deadly — and expensive. The disease is marked by financial burdens for the patient, and often their family as well.
Women with breast cancer experience pain and adverse effects from their treatment, stress caused by the possibility of infertility, and often frustration dealing with health insurance companies. In addition, they have to manage living expenses not covered by insurance. The authors state that almost 50% of women with breast cancer have to cope with some degree of financial difficulty along with their disease.1
A number of resources may provide support for patients and their families as they deal with the expenses of treatment. However, a centralized registry for patients who seek assistance with funding does not exist, although there is definitely a need.
The authors identified 12 independent funding resources available to patients with breast cancer. Eligibility for funds may also depend on age, stage of cancer, status of treatment (active or survivor/in remission), geographic location, income, and other needs such as child care.
Nationally Available Assistance Programs
Driving Miss Darby Foundation Inc supports breast cancer research through public education and recruitment/retention efforts for those participating in clinical trials. The organization also provides general funding assistance and outreach for patients enrolled in breast cancer clinical trials.
Genevieve’s Helping Hands Charity provides peer, caregiver, and nutritional support for young mothers (age 40 and younger with at least 1 child younger than 18 years) and assistance in finding financial aid. The organization offers recovery or stay grants for mothers with breast cancer before, during, and after any type of breast cancer treatment, including reconstruction. It also awards respite grants to women with stage IV disease.
Patient Advocate Foundation offers case management, co-pay relief, financial aid, and scholarships for patients with chronic or life-threatening diseases, including COVID-19, cardiovascular diseases, and migraine, in addition to cancer. Their Metastatic Breast Cancer Financial Aid Fund grants can help with daily, as well as end-of-life, expenses for patients with stage III and IV disease who are undergoing active treatment or will within the next 60 days.
Sisters Network Inc is a national breast cancer survivorship organization dedicated to educating and supporting African American women about breast cancer. It provides grants to help African American breast cancer survivors with daily and medical expenses. Note, grants require enrollment, and the historical deadline is July 15.
Komen Financial Assistance Program, a support program offered through the Susan G. Komen organization, provides financial help with daily living expenses for patients currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer or living with stage IV breast cancer with a current household income of less than 300% of the federal poverty level.
The Pink Daisy Project provides gift cards for gas, groceries, and restaurant meals to women with breast cancer aged 45 years and younger and within 3 months of treatment or reconstruction. This patient population often experiences extreme difficulty qualifying for Social Security and are not old enough for Medicare.
The Pink Fund pays up to $3000 in housing, utility, transportation, and insurance expenses directly for women in active treatment for breast cancer who can demonstrate a loss of working income due to their disease and whose household income is less than 500% of the federal poverty level. Additional monies may be available for patients with stage IV metastatic breast cancer who are awaiting Social Security Disability through the Mary Herczog Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer.
United Breast Cancer Foundation offers programs and services for patients with breast cancer, including holistic treatment and breast reconstructive surgery; sponsorship and a college scholarship for their children; and community services such as education and breast screening. Its individual grant can be customized to the needs of the patient and their family to help with expenses related to housing, transportation, medical, insurance, treatment, nutrition, and housekeeping. The grant requires a pay-it-forward contribution of $25 or $50.
Geographic-Specific Assistance Programs
Although most grant programs are available to residents of all 50 states, the following programs are available to residents of specific geographic areas or states.
The Gift of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation (Florida residents only) provides grants to help with monthly expenses, including utilities, gas, and food, while the patient is undergoing qualifying treatments and cannot exceed a period of 4 months.
Hope Chest for Breast Cancer Foundation (Minnesota residents only) offers grants to help with expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation, and childcare for patients in active treatment for breast cancer.
Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation (residents of 9 New York Hudson Valley counties only) funds several programs that offer support to patients with breast cancer, including Medical Gap Care Fund, which provides grants to cover life emergencies and/or costs not covered by health insurance while undergoing breast cancer treatment; Complementary Medicine, which funds various complementary care methods to enhance recovery (eg, massage therapy, Reiki, exercise/dance, etc); scholarships for college-bound high school seniors affected by breast cancer; and Peer-to-Peer, which is a support program that matches patients with survivors trained to provide support.
Breast Cancer Assistance Fund (residents of all states except Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon) provides monies for living expenses and transportation to treatment, as well as emotional support. This grant is provided by the National Cancer Assistance Foundation Fund.
Discussions of Financial Issues
The researchers note that 78% of women report that they have never discussed the financial aspects of their breast cancer treatment with their oncology team. These grants are not enough to help the more than 3.8 million women in the United States with breast cancer, the researchers wrote. They suggest healthcare teams discuss financial counseling and planning with their patients at diagnosis and have financial support information readily available for patients while they are in the medical office.
Disclosure: One study author declared affiliation with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the reference for a complete list of disclosures.
Roy N, Villavisanis DF, Taub PJ. Mitigating financial toxicity in breast cancer from diagnosis to treatment and reconstruction. Clin Breast Cancer. Published online October 3, 2022. doi: 10.1016/j.clbc.2022.09.009