Finding Financial Help

Most of the financial assistance programs available for cancer patients are based on diagnosis, not a specific income qualification. However, there are also services that are dedicated to providing charitable assistance to those without insurance, those with substantial medical bills despite having insurance and those with income below a certain level. The social worker at a hospital will often have extensive knowledge of the financial assistance programs available to cancer patients.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials typically apply to a very specific group of patients. In many cases, clinical trial participants have their treatment expenses covered, regardless of what type of treatment the patient received. Clinical trials have inclusion and exclusion criteria and are not appropriate for all patients. If you are interested and want to find out if you qualify for a clinical trial, ask your physician and they can guide you to the appropriate resources.

Drug Assistance Programs

Drug assistance programs from pharmaceutical companies or patient assistance programs can reduce the financial burden of breast cancer treatment for some patients. One study looked into why women may choose not to take a medicine that is indicated for their type of breast cancer. The leading reason was cost, but other factors included higher stage at diagnosis and strength of the patient’s overall support system.2  Programs like these can appease the cost of treatment for those in need.


The cost of breast cancer treatment varies depending on the type of cancer, the patient’s overall health, adverse reactions to therapy and the patient’s age. One of the options to help cover the cost are personal loans or home equity loans.

Loans are an acceptable option if the breast cancer patient is going to be able to return to work or if someone in the family will be able to generate the means to repay them. It is important to keep in mind that loans will build interest and paying them back as quickly as possible is the most cost-effective use of loans.

Loans against life insurance policies may be possible in some cases. Some patients have a terminal illness clause in their life insurance policy that they may be able to borrow against to help pay for cancer treatment. It is important to know about your insurance policy and be aware of any tax penalties for this type of early withdrawal.

Home equity loans can be used to borrow against what you have already paid into owning your home. These loans may have lower interest rates and are often a more desirable option than a personal loan. Home equity loans can be written in a way to protect survivors, which should be considered prior to signing the loan.

Hardship provisions may be in place for retirement plans, annuities and trusts if you have any of these kinds of investments. To qualify for these, you typically need to fill out the appropriate forms and have a physical exam that supports the hardship.


1 Campbell, J. D., & Ramsey, S. D. (2009). The Costs of Treating Breast Cancer in the US: A Synthesis of Published Evidence. PharmacoEconomics , 199-209.

2 Atkins, L., & Fallowfield, L. (2006). Intentional and non-intentional non-adherence to medication amongst breast cancer patients. European Journal of Cancer , 2271-2276

This article was originally published on July 27,2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/2/2015.