It’s an understatement to say that cancer brings challenges. Beyond the existential worries and physical difficulties of treatment side effects, the financial burden can be so big it has it’s own name – “financial toxicity.” 1 

While medical bills alone can be tremendous, another monstrous cost of treatment is travel expenses, especially when treatment is offered far from home. When my uncle was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, he had to only travel two hours by car from northern NJ to Philadelphia or just over the bridge to NYC, and that got expensive. For those who need to travel farther distances, it can become overwhelming. Luckily there are amazing programs in place to help fix this problem. Unfortunately, people don’t always know the help that’s available. According to Lindsey Kerr the Executive Director of LifeLine Pilots, “Only 5% of those with a need are being served by organizations like ours.”2 

Lifeline Pilots, established the same year as Cancer Hope Network, “has provided no-cost air transportation for financially distressed passengers with medical and humanitarian needs.  Over four decades, volunteer pilots have flown five million nautical miles and more than 8,000 missions with a 100% safety record. Missions are facilitated for babies through senior citizens. LifeLine Pilots’ has also participated in relief efforts for natural disasters by transporting volunteers and supplies to areas of need.  Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, LLP currently serves patients living in the following 10 states: Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.”3 (Lifeline Pilots) 

According to the American Hospital Association “[Every year,] 3.6 million people in the U.S. do not obtain medical care due to transportation barriers.”  In fact, transportation is said to be the third leading cause of missing a medical appointment.4 

Another great organization fighting toxicity by providing transportation is PALS which is located Farmingdale, NY. PALS “arranges free flights for medical patients requiring medical diagnosis, treatment or follow-up who cannot afford or are unable to fly commercially.” (PALS website) One of our amazing CHN Support Volunteers, Rachelle, also volunteers for an organization (Hospitality Homes) that houses patients when they visit the Boston area for treatment. She’s seen PALS help first hand, as a patient that stayed with Rachelle in the past used PALS services. “He had used PALS, and I remember he had good experience with them…they are tremendous programs.”  

“A lack of access to transportation has a significant impact on cancer patients’ decisions with respect to stopping or continuing treatments.”5   With the help of these amazing organizations and many other similar, having to travel for cancer treatment, can seem less daunting.   

To learn more about these and other organizations helping patients navigate transportation, please visit https://www.aircarealliance.org/

 
To request support and to be matched with a survivor or caregiver, please visit cancerhopenetwork.org or call us at 877-467-3638 (877-HOPENET).   

1. Financial Toxicity (Financial Distress) and Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version – National Cancer Institute. www.cancer.gov. Published June 29, 2017. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/track-care-costs/financial-toxicity-pdq

2. Removing a barrier for better healthcare. LifeLine Pilots. Published February 6, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2022. https://lifelinepilots.org/removing-barrier-for-healthcare

3. Removing a barrier for better healthcare. LifeLine Pilots. Published February 6, 2020. Accessed March 2, 2022. https://lifelinepilots.org/removing-barrier-for-healthcare

4. Transportation and the Role of Hospitals Transportation and the Role of Hospitals Social Determinants of Health Series.; 2017. http://www.hpoe.org/Reports-HPOE/2017/sdoh-transportation-role-of-hospitals.pdf

5. Etminani-Ghasrodashti R, Kan C, Mozaffarian L. Investigating the Role of Transportation Barriers in Cancer Patients’ Decision Making Regarding the Treatment Process. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. Published online February 6, 2021:036119812199149. doi:10.1177/0361198121991497