Role of Crowdfunding Campaigns in Covering Medical Expenses for Cancer Survivors

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Investigators have discovered that cancer survivors in the United States may be increasingly utilizing crowdfunding campaigns like GoFundMe to help cover the costs of medical and other basic household expenses, according to new findings presented by Zheng et al and Yu et al at the 2023 ASCO Quality Care Symposium (Abstracts 542 and 541). The results of the study underscore the fragility of financial safety nets for patients and their families.

Findings From the First Study

In the first study, the investigators reviewed the cancer-related GoFundMe campaigns of 102,375 patients between January 2022 to June 2023. The investigators gathered additional campaign information, including the organizer’s information, fundraising goals, amount of money raised, and donation records. They then designed and implemented a brief survey to analyze each fundraiser story and extract the cancer survivors’ sociodemographic characteristics, medical financial hardship, and unmet social needs—such as the beneficiary’s age, cancer type and stage, time since diagnosis, treatment status, employment status and work disruption as a result of the cancer, school absenteeism and parents’ work disruption, lack of sick leave, income loss, struggles with expenses for medical treatments, housing, food, transportation, and monthly bills.

The investigators found that the most common cancer types among the patients included breast cancer (n = 16,321), brain tumors (n = 9,763), leukemia (n = 6,888), and lung cancer (n = 5,679). Among the cancer survivors younger than 18 years (n = 9,520), 12.6% of them experienced school absenteeism and 11.2% of them described family-level problems like paying for housing-related expenses. Among cancer survivors aged over 18 years who were working (n = 10,780), frequently listed reasons for needing financial support included work disruption (90.9%), income loss (69.4%), and lack of sick leave (56.2%). Among all adult cancer survivors (n = 14,410), frequently listed reasons for needing financial support included struggles with expenses for medical treatments (47.5%), housing expenses (5.2%), food (5.5%), and transportation (5.3%).

Findings From the Second Study

In the second study, the investigators used GoFundMe to collect data—such as category, organizer information, fundraiser story, fundraising goal, amount of money raised, and donation records—in order to examine the fundraising campaigns of 2.3 million patients from 2012 to 2022.

Among the campaign records retrieved, 21.3% (n = 490,008) of them were initiated because of personal medical reasons. Additionally, there were 33 million donation records and $3.4 billion was raised for personal medical reasons—with an average of $6,893 per campaign.

The investigators found that the amount raised per year increased substantially over the last decade, from $655,000 in 2012 to $68.4 million in 2022; however, only a small percentage (15.1%) of the campaigns reached their financial goals.

The investigators reported that California, Texas, and New York were the top three states in terms of the total amount of money raised. Cancer-related fundraising events accounted for 41.1% of all the medical campaigns with a total of $1.6 billion raised. The average amount of money raised was $7,860.


The investigators emphasized that the examination of fundraising campaign stories can provide important insights into the types of financial hardships experienced by cancer survivors and inform future interventions.

The investigators emphasized that future studies may be needed to better understand the contents of fundraiser stories and the severity of the patients’ cancer-related financial hardship.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.