New report warns that many people feel like they have ‘fallen off a cliff and don’t know what to expect or where to turn for help’
The health and care system is failing to support many recovering cancer patients with the ‘significant physical and emotional trauma’ the illness leaves behind, according to a new report, Am I Meant To Be Okay Now?: Stories of Life After Treatment, launched today by Macmillan Cancer Support at the Houses of Parliament.
The report found that:
- Over 80% of cancer patients who reported physical difficulties in the two years after treatment said they lacked full support to get their lives back on track.
- 90% of people who reported struggling with the emotional effects of cancer in the two years following treatment said they lacked support to get their lives back on track.
- The report also found that 40% of cancer patients who finished treatment in the last two years reported being in pain or discomfort.
The charity highlighted a range of serious physical problems facing cancer patients such as incontinence, difficulty eating and breathlessness which can make people feel as unwell as they did during treatment. The report also found that people frequently experience feelings of anxiety and depression, often as a result of feeling that they aren’t able to ‘get back to normal’.
As well as leaving cancer patients feeling lost after treatment, the lack of appropriate aftercare is putting pressure on the health service. Recent research has shown that in the 15 months after their diagnosis, people with cancer have 60% more A&E attendances and 50% more contact with their GP than expected, which indicates that cancer patients are not being properly supported to manage their condition after treatment finishes.
Cancer patients are now twice as likely to survive for at least ten years after diagnosis than was the case 40 years ago. As the number of people living with cancer increases from 2.5 million today to four million by 2030, the charity is urging the NHS to ensure that everyone has access to a ‘Recovery Package’ of personalised post-treatment support.
The charity says this will ensure that cancer patients ‘don’t fall through the gaps between the hospital and their GP practice’, and that they are supported to live as well as possible after treatment.
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“It is tragic that so many people are left struggling after their cancer treatment ends. Life is often profoundly different after the rollercoaster of diagnosis and treatment ends, with people contending with serious physical and emotional issues.
“The health and care system has a long way to go in terms of fully supporting people after cancer treatment. The NHS must ensure that every single person who is treated for cancer gets the support that is right for them after treatment – far too many cancer patients are badly being let down in their time of need.”
Kathy Holley, from Northamptonshire, finished treatment for bowel cancer two years ago:
“I came out of hospital immediately after my operation. I hadn’t managed to regain control of my bowels, but they let me just sort of wander off into the night with no incontinence care, no nothing. I was fine for a bit, until I started experiencing the diarrhoea problems again.
“I went to see the GP, who said he didn’t know what was going on and he couldn’t really treat me because he didn’t know what the hospital were doing. It made a big hit on my quality of life because I was always scared about going out.”
To read Am I Meant To Be Okay Now? please click here