Average British family can’t afford cancer warns Macmillan

The average family in the UK would not be able to afford cancer, and could be forced to find hundreds of pounds a month if they were hit by the disease, according to new analysis released today by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Macmillan calculates that the average family is left with around £365 each month after paying for necessities such as bills, food and everyday travel1. But previous research by the charity shows that cancer has an average monthly cost of £570 for the vast majority (83%) of cancer patients2. Working parents with young children are hit hardest by the financial cost of cancer3.

The charity warns that an adult being diagnosed with cancer could therefore leave the average British family with a potential shortfall of around £200 a month even if they were to cut out all leisure activities and reduce their spending to bare essentials4.

Macmillan warns that thousands of parents could already be struggling with the cost of cancer and the issue will only worsen as almost half the population is predicted to get the disease at some point in their lives by 20205.

Extra costs include travel to and from hospital appointments; an increase in household bills due to being at home more and feeling the cold after treatment; and paying for extra support with help at home such as cleaning. And many people have to cut down their working hours or stop working altogether because they are too unwell resulting in a significant loss of income.

Macmillan, which offers grants, benefits advice and financial guidance for people affected by cancer, is urging people to seek financial help as soon as possible to stop money worries spiralling out of control. This is particularly important as previous research by the charity shows that more than a third (36%) of people with cancer had no idea that cancer would affect them financially, and a further one in 10 (9%) underestimated the extent that they’d be affected.3

It warns that otherwise the average family could be forced to turn to their savings, credit cards, take out a loan or even sell their home to cover the potential shortfall.

Single mum Devry Souayed, 55, from Lancashire, was made redundant from her civil service job a year prior to her breast cancer diagnosis in 2013. As a result of ongoing treatment she is still too ill to work. She says:

“Cancer has stripped my health and my bank balance. When I was diagnosed, I was focused on getting better for my children, with two still living at home, and had no idea that it would financially cripple me too. I was forced to rely on benefits and my income halved.

"I've had to resort to drastic measures to keep my family above water, making unthinkable daily decisions over whether to pay the mortgage or put food on the table, buy new school uniforms or to fix our leaking roof.

“The stress of living on a financial knife edge has made me physically sick. I feel so guilty that my children are missing out on school trips and I’ve had to cut back on birthdays and other treats. My elderly parents help me out financially and I have amazing support from Macmillan but three years on I’m still struggling to get by.”

Macmillan says that there is help available, but people need to know that they can get support and ask for it before financial problems mount up.

Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“At a time when thousands of families are struggling to make ends meet, a cancer diagnosis can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, sending them into financial freefall. We’re talking about families whose world has already been turned upside down and now they’re having to stop going out or spending money on small treats such as toys for their children or magazines. And even then they’re still at risk of getting into debt. It’s got to be a very worrying, isolating place to be.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, the last thing you need to be worrying about is how to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head. But the one thing I would say is that you don’t have to do this alone – there is help out there. At Macmillan we offer financial information and support to help people get back on their feet. Last year we helped 90,000 people affected by cancer unlock £267million in benefits alone.”

No-one should face financial worries alone. For financial support and to find a nearby face-to-face benefits advisor visit www.macmillan.org.uk/moneyworries or call free on 0808 808 00 00.

-Ends-

For further information, please contact:

Catherine Jones, Senior Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7091 2543
cjones@macmillan.org.uk

Or:

Claire Keuls, Senior Media & PR Officer (Mon-Wed), Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7840 4872 (out of hours 07801 307068)
ckeuls@macmillan.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

1 Macmillan estimates that the average UK family is left with around £365 of disposable or ‘discretionary’ income each month after paying for essentials like housing, bills, travel, food and clothing. Estimate based on 2014/2015 UK median household income after tax (£25,600 a year/£2,133 a month) minus 2014 UK average (mean) monthly spending (excluding recreation and culture, restaurants and hotels, alcoholic drinks and tobacco which would form part of discretionary spend) of £1,768. Median income and average (mean) spending figures sourced from the Office for National Statistics:


2 Research commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre in partnership with TNS BMRB, and part-funded by our partner The RBS Group. The research found the total mean monthly cost of cancer resulting from added expenditure and/or loss of income to be £570 a month (amongst those incurring any cost). Figures based on a postal survey of 1,610 adults with a cancer diagnosis, recruited from a database of callers to the Macmillan Support Line and visitors to a sample of Macmillan Information and Support Centres located in hospitals across the UK. The majority (95%) had received cancer treatment within the last six months. Fieldwork took place between August and October 2012. Results were weighted to be representative of all people with a cancer diagnosis in the UK by age, gender, cancer type and country of residence.

Total cost figure includes additional expenditure and loss of income. All cost figures show the mean average for all those incurring that cost. Three-digit figures have been rounded to the nearest 10 to make them more accessible. Figures based on a postal survey of 1,610 adults with a cancer diagnosis, recruited from a database of callers to the Macmillan Support Line and visitors to a sample of Macmillan Information and Support Centres located in hospitals across the UK. The majority (95%) had received cancer treatment within the last six months. Fieldwork took place between August and October 2012. Results were weighted to be representative of all people with a cancer diagnosis in the UK by age, gender, cancer type and country of residence. The research was commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre in partnership with TNS BMRB, and part-funded by our partner The RBS Group.


3 Macmillan Cancer Support/Truth online survey of 955 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have a cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 - 21 September 2015. Data has been weighted. 91% of those who were working at the time of their diagnosis incurred a cost, compared with 78% of those who were not. They were 16% more likely to incur costs than those who are not employed at time of diagnosis; average monthly cost for those who incur a cost is more than twice as high (£880 compared with £360). 93% of survey respondents with children incurred a cost, compared with 82% of those without. Parents were 13% more likely to incur costs than those who do not have children; average monthly cost for those who incur a cost is around twice as high (£1060 compared with £520).


4 Estimated potential shortfall of £200 is indicative only and based on the UK median household monthly income available after covering necessities like mortgage/rent, household bills, food and everyday travel costs (£365) minus the average monthly cost of cancer (£570). There are no definitive data to provide this information and this indicative figure is based on incomparable data for different populations taken at different points in time.


5 Macmillan Cancer Support. 2013. Cancer mortality trends: 1992–2020. Estimated based on prevalence, incidence and mortality trends for full details see here (accessed December 2014).

About Macmillan Cancer Support

When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.

That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.

To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk