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Cancer patients in England spend 5 million days in hospital in the first year of diagnosis


Each patient spends 20 days on average in hospital during the first year of a cancer diagnosis

New research from Macmillan Cancer Support and Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) finds that on average a person diagnosed with cancer will spend 20 days in hospital during the first year.

Overall, cancer patients in England who were diagnosed in 2014 spent 5.3 million days in hospital receiving treatment in the first year of diagnosis alone.

The research, being presented today at the Cancer Data and Outcomes Conference in Manchester, is based on data from England’s national cancer registry. It highlights the potential impact of cancer on an individual’s daily life and the importance of ensuring all patients have the information and support they need to prepare for the changes they are likely to face.

It also showed that:

  • A quarter of people with cancer (25%) spent in total a month or more in hospital during the first year (30 days or more)
  • One in five people (21%) made 25 or more trips to hospital during the year – the equivalent of once every two weeks on average
  • Almost 10,000 people made 50 or more trips – the equivalent of once a week
  • More than 3,500 people spent in total a quarter of the year or more in hospital (90 days or more)

The research shows that the amount of time people spend in hospital varies between age groups and cancer types, which will help healthcare professionals to tailor the information patients receive. For example, breast cancer patients were shown to have the longest time spent in hospital during the first year of diagnosis.

Dany Bell, Treatment and Recovery Specialist Advisor at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“The first year following a cancer diagnosis can be like wading through unchartered territory, and many might not know what to expect. All of a sudden you’re trying to understand medical jargon, navigate a complicated healthcare system, or trying to become accustomed to frequent trips to hospital for surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatment.

“Time in hospital is time away from families, time off work, and it can be expensive travelling to and fro. It’s absolutely vital that patients have access to information and support from the point of diagnosis in order to help them manage their new circumstances.”

Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer, Public Health England, says:

“This research highlights the importance of making in-depth data around cancer accessible to both the public and health professionals. Knowing more about what to expect can help people who are just diagnosed with cancer feel more in control, which can make a huge difference during this difficult time.”

Amrik Nagra, 24, from London, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, says:

“When treatment started, I felt like I lost control. I’d just finished exams and was ready to start enjoying my life, then it was snatched away from me for a year. For six months I was in and out of hospital for appointments, tests, and chemotherapy sessions. Then, when I needed a bone marrow transplant, I had to stay in an isolation room for three weeks in a row.

“I’d had no idea how immense the impact on my life would be, but with the help of family, friends and trusted information and support from Macmillan, I was less anxious and scared.”

The figures are based on analysis of data routinely collected by the NHS. The researchers combined data from England’s national cancer registry on 269,492 people diagnosed for the first time with cancer in 2014 in England with information about their hospital care.

Macmillan has a range of support available to people when they are diagnosed with cancer such as The Source, a collection of online practical tips including what to take to treatment. Patients and their families can also call Macmillan’s Support Line, staffed by trained experts and nurses, to learn the support on offer from the moment they are diagnosed.


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