The Economic Impact on Families When a Child is Diagnosed with Cancer

Baukje (Bo) Miedema, Julie Easley, Pierrette Fortin, Ryan Hamilton, Maria Mathews


Objective: To examine the economic impact on families when caring for a child with cancer.

Setting: New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 28 French and English families with a child diagnosed with cancer in the last ten years.

Results: Families who care for a child with cancer incur considerable costs during the diagnostic, treatment and follow-up care phases of the disease. Four major themes emerged from this qualitative study as contributing factors for these expenses: 1) travel expenses; 2) loss of income/termination of parental employment; 3) out-of-pocket expenses for treatment; and 4) the inability to draw upon programs for assistance to supplement or replace lost income. In addition, many of the primary care-giver decisions were gendered. Typically it is the mother who terminates or reduces her work hours which has an impact on the whole family’s financial well-being.

Conclusions: Financial issues emerged as a significant concern for families of children with cancer at a time when these families are already consumed with other challenges. This economic burden can have a long- term impact on the financial security, quality of life and the future well-being of the entire family, including the siblings of the affected child but in particular on the mother. Financial assistance programs for families of seriously ill children need to be revisited and expanded.

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)