What We Do  

The National Cancer Legal Services Network is a unified voice of over 40 programs, seeking to promote access to healthcare and to increase the availability of legal services for people living with cancer. In addition, the Network supports the efforts of individuals and organizations that provide free legal assistance and referrals. Members of the NCLSN are helping the cancer community recognize the legal needs of those affected by cancer so that they can access legal services.

Over 1.6 million new cancers will be diagnosed in 2012 and approximately 1,500 Americans will die each day from cancer (American Cancer Society [ACS]. Cancer Facts and Figures. 2012). Although overall cancer death rates declined between 1990 and 2007, the reduction has not been equal across all segments of the population (American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures. 2011).

  • For all cancers combined, residents of counties in the U.S. with a greater than 20% poverty rate have a 13% higher death rate in men and 3% higher death rate in women than residents of counties with less than 10% poverty rate.
  • Among people who develop cancer, the five-year survival rate is more than 10 percentage points higher for persons who live in affluent census tracts than for persons who live in poorer census tracts.

(The Socioeconomic Status Related Cancer Disparities Program [SESRCD], 2004, 2003)

Economic and legal issues such as bankruptcy, lack of insurance, substandard housing, and unemployment can be both the consequence of and the devastating factors that undermine a fight against cancer:

  • “Compared to the general population, bankruptcy rates among cancer survivors were nearly twice as high one year after diagnosis, and the median time to bankruptcy was 2.5 years after cancer diagnosis.” (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 2011)
  • “Uninsured patients and those from ethnic minorities are much more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, when treatment can be more extensive and more costly.” In fact, this leads not only to higher medical costs, but also poorer outcomes and higher cancer death rates. (ACS, 2012)
  • “Overall, cancer survivors were more likely to be unemployed than healthy control participants (33.8% vs. 15.2%; pooled relative risk [RR], 1.37). (Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], 2009)

In addition to promoting the need for targeted legal services for people with cancer, the National Cancer Legal Services Network serves as a forum for these programs to discuss relevant health law topics, best practices, funding strategies, and important policy developments, and to network with other practitioners across the country.

The NCLSN holds quarterly telephone conferences to discuss cancer health law policies and best practices, as well as strategize the direction of the network.  The NCLSN listserv allows people to share information and easily connect with needed resources.  In November 2012, the NCLSN held its second annual in-person conference in New York City to discuss topics including the availability of existing national resources, models of service delivery, sustainability, and outcome evaluation of programs.