Economic impact of advanced pediatric cancer on families

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2014 Mar;47(3):594-603. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2013.04.003. Epub 2013 Jul 18.


Context: Despite emerging evidence of substantial financial distress in families of children with complex illness, little is known about economic hardship in families of children with advanced cancer.

Objectives: To describe perceived financial hardship, work disruptions, income losses, and associated economic impact in families of children with advanced cancer stratified by federal poverty level (FPL).

Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 86 parents of children with progressive, recurrent, or nonresponsive cancer at three children's hospitals. Seventy-one families with complete income data (82%) are included in this analysis.

Results: Parental work disruptions were prevalent across all income levels, with 67 (94%) families reporting some disruption. At least one parent quit a job because of the child's illness in 29 (42%) families. Nineteen (27%) families described their child's illness as a great economic hardship. Income losses because of work disruptions were substantial for all families; families at or below 200% FPL, however, were disproportionately affected. Six (50%) of the poorest families lost more than 40% of their annual income as compared with two (5%) of the wealthiest families (P = 0.006). As a result of income losses, nine (15%) previously nonpoor families fell from above to below 200% FPL.

Conclusion: The economic impact of pediatric advanced cancer on families is significant at all income levels, although poorer families suffer disproportionate losses. Development of ameliorative intervention strategies is warranted.

Keywords: Pediatric; disparities; financial; oncology; palliative care; poverty.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / economics*
  • Parents
  • Poverty / economics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States