THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS is sending people with cancer across the UK into a downward spiral, according to a leading charity.
Macmillan Cancer Support has issued a stark warning that the “time to act is now”, as it reveals record numbers of patients are already turning to the charity for financial help this year and fears “the worst is yet to come”.
New figures from Macmillan show an estimated two million people with cancer in the UK (66 per cent) are already concerned about the cost of food or water over the next 12 months.
In some cases, cost pressures have already led to at least 20,000 cancer patients (six per cent) delaying or cancelling travel to medical appointments related to their cancer diagnosis or treatment and follow-up, which could have had major implications on both their health and prognosis.
The charity’s research also shows one in five people with cancer (19 per cent) are already struggling to pay basic living costs. The rising costs for people living with cancer come on top of the existing financial impact a cancer diagnosis already brings, which for those affected reaches almost £900 a month on average, in addition to their usual outgoings. As well as this, many people living with cancer are also facing distressingly long waits in receiving the financial benefits which they are entitled to.
This, along with the other ways cancer is affecting people’s lives, means hundreds of thousands of people with cancer across the UK are seeing their physical or mental health deteriorate. Macmillan’s figures show more than half a million people with cancer (17 per cent) are feeling down, depressed or hopeless on a weekly basis. Based on current forecasts, the charity is concerned that rising energy costs and expected winter NHS pressures are likely to only exacerbate things for people living with cancer in the months ahead.
So far this year, the teams on Macmillan’s Support Line have answered over 150,000 queries from people in need, and the charity has supported more than 34,000 people with a financial grant. The number of people it supported with a grant in the first half of 2022 is the highest number it has on record for a six-month period. In response, the charity is having to double its helpline team dedicated to supporting people with financial issues to try and keep up with the demand. This unprecedented need means Macmillan has already exceeded the amount it typically gives out for grants/financial support in a year and must invest more in extra support.
Julian is a medically retired football coach from Essex who was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in 2016 and has received Macmillan financial support. He says: “My diagnosis meant I had to let go of my dream job as a football coach due to my mobility issues. I’ve always worked my whole life and now I have to rely on benefits, which isn’t enough to cover the cost of my expenses – it’s really tough but I am left with no choice. We are living week by week. I’m homebound so my heating and electricity bills have been higher, and I have often had to make the difficult choice between food or petrol for the day. I’ve always liked to go out and enjoy my food, but now we have to budget. It was those little things that made me feel more normal allowing me to forget that I have cancer, but that’s now taken away from me.”
Debbie, originally from Zimbabwe but now living in London, was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in August 2021. She says: “My partner and I are very proud people. I’ve never claimed any kind of assistance from the Government in my 34 years of living in the UK and as much as Macmillan said I was entitled to financial support, I didn’t want to do it. I was determined to live day to day on as little as I could, but I hit breaking point having to deal with the skyrocketing costs of living. Eventually I gave in and learnt it’s okay and there’s no shame in asking for help.
“We are cutting down costs of every little thing we can, but I feel like our options are limited. We’re coming into the winter months and I’ve just had surgery, and for anyone that has gone through chemotherapy and multiple surgeries like myself, it’s so important to keep warm and not to worry about having to turn your gas and heating up. The support we’ve received from advisors on Macmillan’s Support Line has been a lifeline, but I am extremely worried about what the future holds.”
Christopher Jones, Welfare Rights and Energy Team Leader at Macmillan Cancer Support says: “There has been a real change in the tone of the calls we have been receiving on the Support Line recently. People are really struggling, and emotions are heightened. We’re hearing from people every day who are feeling the enormous pressure with the rise in cost of living and not knowing what to do or where to turn, all while coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis. Some are even having to face the impossible choice between getting to hospital appointments or food and water.
“We want anyone with cancer who is struggling or facing financial hardship to know that they are not alone and Macmillan’s specially trained teams are on hand, every day, to provide support. Our experts can help with financial or welfare guidance or provide practical answers to day-to-day questions. Looking ahead, we know that things may get harder as we approach the winter months but we will keep doing whatever it takes to ensure people with cancer have the support they need.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says: “This is an acutely challenging time for people with cancer. Not only are many struggling with the ongoing delays to cancer treatment and benefit payments, they are now burdened with the rising cost of living with concerns that this winter, the worst is yet to come.
“Macmillan is doing whatever it takes to give people living with cancer the support they need. However, we can’t do this alone. We rely on donations for 98 per cent of our income and are so grateful for the dedication of our supporters. Their generosity enables us to keep going and support even more people living with cancer. But our work is far from done. Things are tough, and so we must do more now than we’ve ever done before to help them – the time to act is now.”
* Source: Macmillan Cancer Support