Economic effects of childhood cancer on families

J Paediatr Child Health. 2003 May-Jun;39(4):254-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.2003.00138.x.


Objective: To assess the financial impact of childhood cancer on families.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey of parents caring for children who were diagnosed with cancer during the period 1990-1993. Self-administered questionnaires were completed by the parents of 237 children from throughout New Zealand with different types of cancer. Dollar amounts were adjusted to the equivalent of December 2000.

Results: Eighty-six per cent of the 192 living children were well or in remission. A further 45 children had died. The average extra amount spent, because of the child's illness, by the family of a living child in the 30 days prior to participation in the study was NZ$220 (SD NZ$330). On average, this was 13% of the family income after tax. After reported entitlement to compensation from various sources was allowed for, families were left with a mean deficit of NZ$157 (SD NZ$278) for the 30 days. Twelve families had a shortfall of more than NZ$500, including three families that had a shortfall of more than NZ$1000. Expenditure was greater for those whose children spent more time in hospital (P = 0.003). There was no significant association between the total cost and the distance travelled to the treatment centre (P = 0.96). For 24 families, after-tax income in the month prior to participation in the study was at least NZ$500 lower than it had been in the month before the child's diagnosis. Thirty-seven per cent of families reported that they needed to borrow money because of the financial effects of the child's illness. Bereaved parents spent an average of NZ$3065 (SD NZ$2168) on funeral expenses.

Conclusion: There is a large financial burden on families who have a child with cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / economics*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires