5 December 2014
Over half of UK cancer patients who need surgery go to the hospital on their own, with many saying this is because of lack of support or because they don’t want to be a burden, according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Support.
Using a survey of over 2,000 people with cancer, conducted by YouGov, Macmillan has found that well over half (61%) of people who had surgery had been to at least one of these appointments alone.
Of those surveyed, more than 2 in 5 (46%) people who had chemotherapy and 3 in 5 (60%) of those who had radiotherapy also went to at least one of these appointments alone.
Worryingly, almost a third (30%) of people with cancer who went to at least one cancer-related hospital appointment alone said it was because they didn’t want to burden friends or family, or because the person they wanted to accompany them wasn’t available.
Sadly, 1 in 20 (5%) people with cancer said they had been to a hospital appointment alone because they had no one to ask to go with them.
Overall, 89% of people with cancer and 86% of those diagnosed in the last year have been to at least one cancer-related hospital appointment on their own – which equates to an estimated 270,000 people in the UK every year.
Paul Ware, 47, from Somerset was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010. He says:
“I went through most of my cancer treatment including a stem cell transplant, chemotherapy and radiotherapy on my own. My family love me very much, but I didn’t want to burden them by asking them to travel all the way to the hospital, take unpaid time from work or spend money on fuel and parking charges.
“I dreaded every hospital admission because of the "look" I received from staff when I was asked about my next of kin but turned up alone. It was a mix of pity and intrigue. I knew the staff were thinking: ‘Why isn’t anyone with him?’
“When I was an inpatient the nurses were understandably very busy so I had no one to talk to and that compounded my sense of loneliness. Even as a day patient for chemotherapy or radiotherapy I was always very aware I was on my own. It made me feel very depressed.”
Jacqui Graves, Head of Health and Social Care for Macmillan Cancer Support says:
“It is deeply saddening that cancer patients are facing one of the most frightening moments of their lives – going for an operation – without having anyone with them to offer support.
“Going to surgery or treatment alone can have a devastating impact on patients. There is no-one to offer a warm hug if they feel distressed, no-one to remind them of practical needs like taking anti-sickness medication if they have chemotherapy.
“There is no-one to act as their advocate, asking the doctor the questions they might not have thought to ask because they are too overwhelmed, or to calm them down if they are stressed or anxious.
“If you’re going through cancer, having a friend or relative supporting you, whether that’s cooking you a hot meal or going with you to appointments, makes the world of difference. That’s why Macmillan Cancer Support is urging people to visit The Source, a website with tips for the friends and family of people with cancer so they can offer appropriate support and make sure no one faces cancer alone.”
Macmillan has launched The Source, a website full of tips to help people give someone they know with cancer the support they need, whether that’s going to a hospital appointment with them, helping them access advocacy services or cooking them a hot meal. Visit www.macmillan.org.uk/source
If you or someone you know is lonely and going through cancer, get support by calling 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk . To help Macmillan ensure no one faces cancer alone donate at www.macmillan.org.uk/Donate
For further information, please contact:
Catherine Jones, Press Officer
Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2496 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1. Research conducted by YouGov and commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support.
• Online survey of 2,033 UK adults who have ever been diagnosed with cancer. Fieldwork took place between 3 and 8 October 2014. Survey data has been weighted by gender, age using 2008 cancer prevalence estimates.
• Of the total unweighted sample of 2,033:
o 1,802 had surgery
o 1,003 had chemotherapy
o 1,191 had radiotherapy
• The reasons why those surveyed attended their appointment alone are as follows:
o 60% didn’t consider it necessary for anyone to go with them
o 25% said they wanted to go alone.
o 17% said they didn’t want to burden friends or family
o 16% said the person who they wanted to go with them wasn’t available
o 5% had no one to go with them
o 10% stated ‘other’ r
o 4% preferred not to say
2 Macmillan estimate based on applying the YouGov survey result of 86% to the estimated total number of patients first treated for cancer each year in the UK (315,000) based on aggregated quarterly cancer waiting statistics for 2013-2014 (April 2013-March 2014) from each nation. Data sourced from: Department for Health, ISD Scotland, Welsh Government, and Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. Please note: A patient may have more than one primary cancer for which they received treatment for within the same 12 months and hence may be double counted.
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