Of the two million people living with or after cancer across the UK, more than 1.2 million were diagnosed more than five years ago. Many of these long-term cancer survivors are suffering needlessly and in silence, according to leading cancer charity, Macmillan Cancer Support.
A new ICM omnibus poll conducted by Macmillan indicates that current services for people living with or after cancer do not meet people’s expectations. 94% of those surveyed said they would expect a full assessment of their ongoing needs, 92% said they would expect to discuss potential side effects of cancer treatment and how to manage them, and 89% said that they would expect a personalised care plan to support them once their treatment was over. None of these are standard practice for patients finishing treatment for cancer in the UK.
Mike Hobday at Macmillan Cancer Support says, “Far too many distressed cancer survivors are left to suffer alone. It is great that people are surviving cancer, but we cannot desert them after their initial treatment is over. That’s why we are urging the Government to see this issue as a priority and take action now."
Blood clots, nerve damage, lymphoedema, hot flushes, impotence, depression and anxiety are just some of the physical and emotional long-term problems that affect cancer survivors. However, people who have finished treatment for cancer are often overlooked by health and social care services that frequently miss the long-term physical and emotional effects of the disease and its treatment.
Unfortunately, the situation is set to get worse. With the number of people diagnosed with cancer in the UK rising by 3.2 per cent every year so too will the number of people living with the consequences. The increase is due to more people being diagnosed with cancer, but is also due to the fact that more people are now surviving cancer thanks to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.
Macmillan is calling on the Government to introduce standard measures across the UK to ensure that cancer survivors get the support they need, including:
- A post-treatment assessment and care plan offered to everyone who finishes treatment
- As part of that plan, people should be provided with information about possible consequences of cancer and its treatment
- People should be given advice and support on lifestyle and how to manage the long-term consequences of their condition