Financial assistance programs can reduce the burden of expensive treatments, making them more accessible and allowing you to focus on recovery.

The high costs of cancer care often result in overwhelming financial stress for people with cancer and their families, significantly affecting their well-being.

According to the latest Survivor Views survey by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), 61% of cancer patients and survivors find it somewhat or very difficult to afford their care. This financial hardship can reduce the chances that people will stick to their treatment plans and can lower their quality of life and survival rates.

Financial assistance programs for cancer aim to reduce these burdens by providing support for expenses such as medical bills, prescription medications, and transportation to and from treatment.

Let’s explore some of the available financial assistance programs for cancer treatment.

Cancer financial assistance programs are designed to help people cope with the costs associated with cancer treatment and care. These programs vary in their eligibility criteria, the services they offer, and the extent of financial support they provide.

They typically cover a range of expenses related to cancer treatment, such as medication costs, medical bills, transportation to and from medical appointments, and sometimes even nonmedical expenses like rent, utilities, and other basic needs.

To access these programs, people usually need to meet specific eligibility criteria, which can involve factors such as income level, insurance status, and cancer type.

Nonprofit cancer organizations

Nonprofit cancer organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) often provide financial assistance programs for people who are being treated for cancer.

These programs can help relieve the financial burden of cancer treatment by offering support for medical expenses, transportation, lodging, and related costs:

  • ACS: The ACS provides various financial assistance programs, including help with transportation costs to and from treatment, lodging assistance for people who must travel for treatment, and a program that provides free wigs and head coverings for people who experience hair loss due to treatment.
  • LLS: The LLS offers financial assistance programs for people with blood cancer, including help with insurance premiums, treatment copays, and nonmedical expenses such as transportation, housing, and child care. The LLS also offers travel assistance for treatment-related costs and help with urgent needs such as rent, utilities, and dental care.
  • CancerCare: CancerCare provides financial assistance to people with cancer for various needs, including transportation, home care, child care, lodging, and pet care. Assistance is available to people who are in active cancer treatment, live in the United States or Puerto Rico, and meet income-based eligibility guidelines.
  • Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF): The PAF offers financial assistance to people with cancer through its financial aid fund, which helps with copayments, insurance premiums, and incidental expenses related to treatment.
  • HealthWell Foundation: The HealthWell Foundation offers financial assistance to people with cancer who are underinsured or have high out-of-pocket medical expenses. The foundation provides grants to help with prescription medications, insurance premiums, and other healthcare costs.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is a federal program that offers financial assistance to people who cannot work because of a medical condition such as cancer. To qualify, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a certain period, usually within the last 10 years, before becoming disabled.

The program provides monthly payments based on your earnings history and tax contributions. These payments help cover living expenses such as food, housing, and medical care. After receiving benefits for 2 years, you become eligible for Medicare, which can help with medical expenses related to cancer treatment.

SSDI offers critical financial support for people with cancer who are unable to work. It can ease the burden of medical bills and living expenses and allow you to focus on health and recovery.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI offers monthly cash benefits to people ages 65 years or older, blind people, and disabled people, including those with cancer who have limited income and resources.

Qualification is based on income and asset levels, with benefits varying by state and possibly including additional supplements. SSI recipients often qualify for Medicaid, which may be automatic in some states. You can apply online or by contacting your local Social Security office.

Approval typically takes 3 to 5 months, but the process may be expedited for certain serious illnesses, such as some cancers. If your application is denied, you can appeal. SSI is distinct from SSDI, which requires you to have a work history and meet Social Security’s disability criteria.


Medicaid is a government program that helps individuals and families with low income access necessary medical services such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications.

Medicaid eligibility and application processes can vary by state, but generally, you may qualify for Medicaid if you:

  • meet specific requirements for income and family size (which vary by state)
  • have a disability
  • are pregnant and meet certain income criteria
  • receive SSI
  • are in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program

To apply for Medicaid, you can:

  • apply directly through your state’s Medicaid program (this is the recommended method)
  • fill out an application through the Marketplace (this may involve longer processing times)

If you have cancer, Medicaid can help cover the costs of your cancer treatment, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications. It can also cover costs related to preventive care, such as cancer screenings.

Veterans Administration (VA) benefits

The VA offers a range of services to veterans, including healthcare, disability compensation, education assistance, and home loans.

Each year, about 56,000 veterans in the VA system receive a diagnosis of cancer — often prostate, lung, or bladder cancer.

VA healthcare provides access to cancer specialists and treatments, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and precision oncology. Veterans can also participate in clinical trials and receive teleoncology services for remote care.

VA disability compensation may be available for veterans whose cancer is connected to their military service, providing financial support for medical expenses and other associated costs.

Prescription assistance programs

Prescription assistance programs help people with cancer and others who can’t afford medications by providing free or low cost drugs. These programs, run by pharmaceutical companies or nonprofits, reduce the financial burden of cancer treatments, which often involve expensive medications. Eligibility is based on income and requires financial documentation.

Prescription assistance programs that help pay for cancer medications include:

  • Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN): offers financial assistance for out-of-pocket costs for cancer treatments, including copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance
  • PAF: provides copayment assistance and helps people navigate insurance and financial challenges related to cancer treatment
  • CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation: offers financial assistance for copayments related to cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy
  • GoodRx: offers discounts on a wide range of medications, including those used in cancer treatment
  • NeedyMeds: provides information on patient assistance programs that offer free or low cost medications for people who cannot afford their prescriptions, including cancer treatments

Additionally, some drug manufacturers have programs. You can work with your oncology team to find out whether the medications and treatments you’re receiving have financial assistance programs.

Community and church groups

Community and church groups may provide financial assistance to people with cancer by covering medical expenses, transportation, and other needs. They can also offer emotional support, practical help, and access to support networks, and they often organize fundraising events.

Eligibility for cancer financial assistance programs can vary widely depending on the specific program and its criteria. However, many programs consider the following factors:

  • Income: Some programs have income limits or guidelines based on the federal poverty level.
  • Insurance status: Programs may require applicants to have limited or no insurance coverage.
  • Cancer diagnosis: Most programs require applicants to have a documented cancer diagnosis.
  • Treatment plan: Some programs may require applicants to be actively undergoing treatment or have a treatment plan in place.
  • Residency: Some programs are restricted to residents of specific states or regions.
  • Cancer type: Some programs may focus on specific types of cancer or cancer-related expenses.

Programs may also consider other factors, such as household size, assets, and specific financial needs related to the cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Research suggests that certain populations have a greater risk of experiencing financial distress due to cancer, including:

  • women
  • younger people
  • people in racial or ethnic minority groups
  • people with low incomes
  • people without insurance

Here are some ways you may be able to find financial assistance programs that could be helpful for you:

  • Start with healthcare professionals: Begin by speaking with your healthcare team or hospital social workers. They can often provide information on available financial assistance programs and help you understand the application process.
  • Research online: Use the internet to research financial assistance programs for people with cancer. Websites such as, the ACS website, and can be valuable resources for finding programs that may be able to help you.
  • Contact local support organizations: Reach out to local cancer support organizations, nonprofit groups, and community health centers. They may have information on local financial assistance programs and resources.
  • Check with your insurance provider: Contact your insurance provider to ask whether they offer any financial assistance programs or whether they can recommend other resources.
  • Attend support groups: Consider joining a cancer support group. Members often share information about financial assistance programs and resources they’ve used.
  • Consult financial counselors: Some hospitals and cancer centers have financial counselors who can provide guidance on finding and applying for financial assistance.

The cost of cancer treatment can be overwhelming. Financial assistance helps ensure that everyone, regardless of financial status, can access necessary care. Without assistance, many people may delay or forgo treatment, and that can lead to worse health outcomes.

If you’ve received a cancer diagnosis, talk with a healthcare professional about how to access financial assistance. Financial assistance programs can help relieve the heavy burden of treatment costs and allow you to concentrate on your health.