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Handling Travel Costs

You may live near a leading cancer treatment hospital and be able to find excellent treatment close to home. Many people, however, will have to travel for their initial treatment. Or you may have to travel later on, for clinical trials or follow-up care. The cost of medical care alone is so high, how can you pay for travel too?

Assistance with travel costs

Some nonprofit organizations arrange free or reduced-cost air transportation for cancer patients going to or from cancer treatment centers. You can sometimes get special rates from airlines, donated flights on corporate jets, and donated frequent flyer miles. Assistance is sometimes, but not always, based on financial need.

Talk with a social worker near your home or at the hospital where you’re seeking treatment, or contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society to find out more. Get your kids, your nieces and nephews, and your friends to make some phone calls and surf the web for you. Explore all your options.

  • Your medical insurance might cover the cost of travel for treatment, so check your policy or ask!
  • The National Patient Travel HELPLINE
    • Critically ill patients can sometimes obtain air ambulance flights.
    • They can also help arrange flights for diagnosis and treatment of those who are not critically ill.
    • Phone: 800-296-1217 (available 24/7)
    • Website:
  • Corporate Angel Network
    • Provides empty seats on corporate jets for cancer patients, bone marrow donors, and bone marrow recipients.
    • You must be able to walk up and down the stairs of a private plane and you must not need medical support while traveling.
    • This service is not based on financial need.
    • Patients may travel as often as necessary.
    • Website:
    • Phone: 914-328-1313; toll-free patient line: 866-328-1313
    • Email:
  • Is driving to treatment near your home an issue? The American Cancer Society, The United Way, and other volunteer agencies and local houses of worship may provide volunteers to drive you to treatment.

Assistance with the cost of lodging

If you need to travel away from home for treatment, it is sometimes possible to stay with friends and relatives nearby. When this isn’t an option, there are charities that can help provide a free or discounted place to stay.

Most people are familiar with the Ronald McDonald Houses across the country, which provide lodging for children with cancer and their families. Fortunately, there are similar charities that help adults.

  • The National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses, Inc.
    • Helps locate lodging and other support services for patients and their families, including people who must travel to be with a patient.
    • They are linked to member housing across the country and also provide information about non-member homes willing to help.
    • Website:
    • Phone: 828-253-1188; Toll-Free: 1-800-542-9730
    • Email:
  • Fisher Houses
    • Provide lodging for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers for free or at a very low cost.
    • Website:
    • Phone: (301) 294-8560: Toll-free (888) 294-8560
    • Email:
  • A social worker at the hospital you are being treated at can direct you to nearby hotels that may provide lodging at reduced rates for patients and their families.
  • So can the local chapter of the American Cancer Society near the hospital you’re traveling to, or call their main number, 800-227-2345.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) web site has an excellent resource page outlining financial assistance options for cancer patients.

When checking out a website, remember that all options may not be available online, so you may want to follow up with a phone call.

Sometimes, certain travel and lodging costs are covered in clinical trials, particularly at the National Institutes of Health.

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