Macmillan Cancer Support is urging people living with cancer to access its specialist support as it reveals that more than four in five – almost 2.5 million people across the UK – are hit by a ‘cancer price tag’ that reaches almost £900 a month. Further research also shows there are still tens of thousands of people with cancer in the UK struggling to pay basic living costs because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A new analysis from Macmillan shows that 83% of people with cancer in the UK experience some kind of financial impact from their diagnosis, and for those affected, this reaches an average of £891 a month, on top of their usual expenditure. More than one in three people with cancer (39%) are severely financially affected by their diagnosis, and for those living with the long-term effects of cancer, the overall financial burden of their diagnosis is more than a year’s average UK full-time salary. The charity’s analysis suggests that the financial cost of cancer may have increased over and above the cost of inflation since it first revealed the financial impact of cancer in 2012.
The financial hit that many people are forced to face as a result of a cancer diagnosis can come from an array of extra and often unexpected needs, as well as a drop in earnings if they are less able to work. For example, the latest figures show that over half of people with cancer see an increase in day-to-day living costs (54%), with over a quarter experiencing extra costs travelling to and from their appointments (28%) and around one in six (17%) facing higher household fuel bills. In addition, three in four people with cancer (75%) experience a loss of income.
Above and beyond the extra costs people with cancer face, further research from Macmillan shows that Covid-19 will have exacerbated financial difficulties for many, with one in nine people with cancer in the UK (11%) saying that their household finances have been affected by Covid-19 in recent months.
The charity is warning of the wider ramifications of these financial pressures, with more than half (56%) of those with cancer who have been financially affected by Covid-19 saying they are left feeling anxious or stressed, whilst 29% have experienced worse health overall and 10% have missed hospital appointments. Worryingly, people with cancer who have been financially affected by Covid-19 and who have also received welfare benefits during the pandemic are significantly more likely to experience these mental and physical impacts. They are seven times as likely to find it hard to stick to their treatment plan, three times as likely to have missed hospital appointments and twice as likely to experience worse health overall as a result of financial pressures from Covid-19.
These findings are mirrored by the charity’s own figures which show that during September this year, the financial teams on Macmillan’s Support Line answered more calls from people in need of support than at any other point during the pandemic so far.
In response to this concerning evidence, Macmillan is urging anyone experiencing the financial impact of cancer to access the support available through the charity, including the financial, emotional and practical guidance Macmillan’s specially trained Support Line advisers can offer.
After being made redundant during the pandemic, Lesley Millar, 45, from Cambridge, was forced to stop a new role doing manual work as a hamper packer when she began treatment for breast cancer in February 2021. She says:
“I wanted to keep working when I was diagnosed but the fatigue of chemotherapy and being told to self-isolate made it impossible. I was left without an income and terrified I would lose the house I share with my daughter. On top of that, I had to face the price tag cancer came with, including driving 40 minutes to hospital appointments, and buying new bras following my lumpectomy and hats to cover my hair loss.
“Until I was put in touch with my Macmillan adviser, Cathy, I felt like I was really paying the price of cancer, way beyond the impact on my health. Macmillan’s finance teams helped me sort out my benefits, reduce bills with my energy supplier and get on a special priority list with my water company. Macmillan has been my rose in a garden of thorns – I can’t thank them enough.”
Carrie Whitham, Head of Operations for Money & Work Support at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Even before Covid-19, we were receiving more and more calls to our support line from people living with cancer, worried about the financial impact of their diagnosis. The pandemic has supercharged these concerns. Every day now we are hearing from people who have felt the financial impact of the Universal Credit cut, rising energy bills or the end of furlough, often making them more anxious about their finances than their health.
People with cancer need to live, not just survive and Macmillan’s specially trained teams are on hand, every day, pushing to make sure people get the support they need and deserve.”
Macmillan is doing whatever it takes to give people living with cancer the support they need and is urging people to contact the charity’s financial teams on 0808 808 00 00 seven days a week. Peer-to-peer support is also available 24 hours a day via the charity’s Online Community and more information about the support available can be found at Macmillan.org.uk.