23 May 2016
The number of people caring for someone with cancer in the UK has risen to almost 1.5 million, an increase of almost a third (31%) in the past five years, according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Support.
Family and friends are spending an average of 17.5 hours a week looking after a loved one with cancer, 2.5 hours more than in 2011. Shockingly, one in five of those surveyed spend more than 35 hours a week, the same as a full time job, caring for someone with cancer.
The new YouGov survey also reveals that cancer carers from as young as 17 to people in their 80s are having to take on more responsibility for the person they care for, with an increase in the types of support they provide. Common tasks include giving medication and changing dressings to taking care of finances, to helping with going to the toilet, and eating.
Worryingly, the research shows that over half (55%) of carers do not receive any support at all5.
Macmillan is concerned about the growing pressure on cancer carers which could leave them with their own health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Stephen Smith, 58, from Shropshire, cares for his wife who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and now experiences the long-term effects of her treatment. He says:
“Often there are times when Fiona wakes up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain and it’s down to me as her carer to make it all better. But most of the time I feel out of my depth, unsure if I’m qualified to do it. Being a carer is all-consuming and there’s no 9 until 5 or weekends off. Sometimes I only manage two hours sleep a night. At times I feel like I’m at breaking point, unable to look after myself let alone Fiona.
“I’m her husband first and foremost, but having to get her in and out of bed, feed and dress her, take her to the toilet and give her medication up to three times a day puts a real strain on you and is ultimately detrimental to your own health.”
Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“As the number of people being diagnosed with cancer continues to rise, we will see even more people having to care for their friends and family, so we urgently need to ensure the right support is in place for them.
“Many cancer carers have to do healthcare tasks they’re not trained to do, such as administering medicine, on top of practical tasks such as making trips to hospital, and providing emotional support. This is often on top of working and looking after their children. At the same time, they are doing their best to remain positive and hold things together, often compromising their own health.
“One of the reasons carers don’t get support is because they don’t know it’s available. In fact, many don’t consider themselves to be carers because they’re acting out of kindness and love.
“We simply can’t expect carers to keep bearing the brunt so we need to support health and social care professionals to let carers know that there is help available which they’re entitled to.”
Macmillan is calling on the Government to recognise the specific needs of cancer carers in the new Carers strategy for England and set out a clear plan of how carers will be able to get the help and support they need.
To find out more about Macmillan’s carers campaign, please visit:
Macmillan has a team of professionals on its support line who can offer information and advice to people caring for someone with cancer. And its online community is available at any time of day or night for people to get support from others who are going through a similar experience.
For further information, please contact:
Claire McMahon, Media and PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7091 2103 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
By 2020 almost half of Britons will get cancer in their lifetime. As the number of people living with cancer doubles from two to four million, the number of carers is also going to increase.
Carers provide a whole range of support to loved ones with cancer: from emotional support, to practical things like helping with shopping/errands, providing transport for trips to hospital/appointments, doing household jobs, providing personal care, and administering medicine.
Macmillan offers information and advice to people caring for someone with cancer on its website www.macmillan.org.uk/carers and support line 0808 808 00 00. Many carers also seek and share support on the charity’s online community.
Attending a self-help and support group can be really helpful to share similar experiences. Visit www.macmillan.org.uk/selfhelpandsupport for more information about groups in your area.
 Macmillan Cancer Support/Ipsos MORI. More than a Million: Understanding the UK’s carers of people with cancer. 2011. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Documents/Cancerinfo/Ifsomeoneelsehascancer/More_than_a_million.pdf
People currently supporting someone with cancer were defined as carers for the purposes of the research if they provided more than five hours of care a week (‘care’ was determined by asking them if they did any of a range of activities for someone because they had cancer) or provided 1-4 hours of care a week but said it had an impact on their lives. It does not include those who provide care as their paid job or voluntary work. Please see the full report (on the link above) for a more detailed explanation of how carers were identified as part of this research.
Research carried out via Ipsos MORI’s face-to-face omnibus survey of the general public. Fieldwork conducted between 20 May and 25 August 2011. 18,449 members of the UK public aged 15+ were screened to identify current carers of someone with cancer. In total 386 fitted eligibility criteria and were interviewed in more depth. Results have been weighted to be representative of the UK adult population.
 YouGov Cancer carers study (Phase 1). 6,487 people aged 16 and over in the UK were interviewed via TNS’ face-to-face omnibus service in phase 1. Data weighting and all analysis was conducted by YouGov. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th February and 22nd March 2016. Results were weighted and are representative of the UK adult population according to age, gender, UK region and socio-economic group. The estimated number of cancer carers in 2016 is 1,416,000 compared with 1,080,000 in 2011. The definition of carers is the same as described above
 Compared to an average of 15 hours a week in 2011.
 Comparison based on all current carers: 2016 (n=177), 2011 (n=384). giving medication and changing dressings (38% c.w. 28% in 2011), helping with toileting and feeding (34% c.w. 23% in 2011), and help with managing finances ( 28% c.w 19% in 2011) taking care of finances).
 YouGov Cancer carers study phase 2. 892 cancer carers were interviewed via YouGov’s online panel. Fieldwork took part between the 4th and 18th of April 2016. Results were weighted by age, gender, social grade and region to reflect the overall population of carers identified in phase 1.
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