The monetary costs of childhood cancer to the families of patients

Int J Oncol. 1996 May;8(5):933-40. doi: 10.3892/ijo.8.5.933.


The medical costs of cancer treatment are well described, but there are few reports of expenses incurred by families of children with malignant disease. The objective of this study was to describe the monetary costs borne by families of patients with childhood cancer and to determine whether these costs represent an important component of the burden of illness. Families completed a prospective diary survey about daily expenses incurred during each sample week of therapy. We also undertook a retrospective, cross-sectional questionnaire survey about expenses, incurred during the entire duration of treatment, associated with major or one-time cost items. Seventy families of children treated for high risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 19 families of children treated for Wilms' tumor stages 2-5, and 16 families of children treated for neuroblastoma stages 3 and 4 completed diaries or questionnaires detailing the costs resulting from the diseases and their treatment. The mean total expenses (in 1986 Canadian dollars) incurred by families of childhood cancer patients over the entire course of therapy are $26,070 for acute lymphoblastic leukemia? $20,074 for Wilms' tumour, and $10,376 for neuroblastoma. On-going weekly costs rather than major one-time purchases account for the largest share of expenses. Overall, in spite of universal first dollar coverage for medical care in Canada, family-borne costs during the course of these illnesses are at least one-third of the average family's after-tax income.