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Coping with cancer - finding the support you need

If you or a loved one has cancer, you may need help with certain practical, financial, and emotional needs. Dealing with cancer can take a toll on your time, emotions, and budget. Support services can help you manage parts of your life affected by cancer. Learn about the types of support you can get along with groups that can help.

Home-Care Services

You may be able to get some care at home instead of at a hospital or clinic. Being around friends and family may help you feel more comfortable during treatment. Getting care at home may ease some of the pressures on caregivers, yet increase others. Ask your health care provider or social worker about services for care at home. Also check with the agencies and groups listed below.

Home-care services may include:

  • Clinical care from a registered nurse
  • Home visits from a physical therapist or social worker
  • Help with personal care like bathing or dressing
  • Help running errands or making meals

Your health plan may help cover the cost of short-term home care. Medicare and Medicaid often cover some home-care costs. You may have to pay for some of the costs.

Lodging and Travel Services

You may be able to get help with travel to and from your appointments. If you need to travel a long distance to receive care, you may be able to get help to cover the cost of plane fare. The National Patient Travel Center lists organizations that offer free air travel for people who need long-distance cancer services. Other groups offer lodging for people getting cancer treatment far from home.

Financial Services

Talk with your social worker about programs that can help cover the costs of cancer treatment. Most hospitals have financial counselors who might be able to help.

  • Some nonprofit organizations help cover the cost of treatment.
  • Many drug companies have patient assistance programs. These programs provide discounts or free medicine.
  • Many hospitals offer programs for people who do not have insurance, or whose insurance does not cover the full cost of care.
  • Medicaid provides health insurance for people with low incomes. Because it is state-run, the level of coverage depends on where you live.
  • You may qualify for financial help from Social Security if you have advanced cancer.

Counseling Services

Counseling can help you cope with difficult feelings like anger, fear, or sadness. A counselor can help you address issues with your family, self-image, or work. Look for a counselor who has experience working with people with cancer.

Your health plan may help cover the cost of counseling, but you may be limited in who you can see. Other options include:

  • Some hospitals and cancer centers offer free counseling
  • Online counseling
  • Group counseling often costs less than one-on-one services
  • Your local health department may provide cancer counseling
  • Some clinics bill patients based on what they can pay (sometimes called a "sliding fee schedule")
  • Some medical schools offer free counseling

Where to Get Help

Here is a list of groups for people with cancer and their families and the services they provide.

American Cancer Society -- www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services.html:

  • The society offers online counseling and support groups as well as other emotional support programs.
  • Some local chapters may provide home care equipment or can find local groups that do.
  • Road to Recovery offers rides to and from treatment.
  • Hope Lodge offers a free place to stay for people getting treatment far from home.

CancerCare -- www.cancercare.org:

  • Counseling and support
  • Financial assistance
  • Help paying copayments for medical care

Eldercare Locator -- eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx helps connect older people with cancer and their families with local support services, which include:

  • Caregiver support
  • Financial help
  • Home repair and modification
  • Housing options
  • Home-care services

Joe's House -- www.joeshouse.org helps people with cancer and their families find places to stay near cancer treatment centers.

National Agency for Home Care and Hospice -- agencylocator.nahc.org connects people with cancer and their families with local home care and hospice services.

Patient Advocate Foundation -- www.patientadvocate.org offers help with copayments.

Ronald McDonald House Charities -- www.rmhc.org provides lodging for children with cancer and their families near treatment centers.

RxAssist -- www.rxassist.org provides a list of free and low-cost programs to help cover prescription costs.

Alternative Names

Cancer support - home care services; Cancer support - travel services; Cancer support - financial services; Cancer support - counseling


American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) website. Counseling. www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/finding-support-and-information/counseling. Updated January 1, 2021. Accessed February 11, 2021.

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) website. Financial resources. www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/financial-considerations/financial-resources. Updated April 2018. Accessed February 11, 2021.

Doroshow JH. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 169.

National Cancer Institute website. Finding health care services. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/services#homecare. Updated November 25, 2020. Accessed February 11, 20, 2021.

US Social Security Administration website. Compassionate allowances. www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances. Accessed February 11, 2021.

Review Date 10/10/2020

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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