Counting the cost of cancer in Wales

Cancer is the toughest fight many of us will face. People tell us that, after the diagnosis itself, money worries are their biggest concern.

We know that cancer is expensive. Research by Macmillan has highlighted that 4 in 5 cancer patients living in Wales are hit with an average cost of £640 a month as a result of their diagnosis, a sum comparable to a monthly mortgage payment. More than half of cancer patients in Wales are worried about money and it shouldn’t be this way.

Our Counting the Cost of Cancer campaign aims to reduce the financial impact of cancer for people in Wales. You can also read these pages in Welsh.

The Welsh Government's Cancer Delivery Plan

The Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan, published in June 2012, made a commitment to routinely offer the opportunity to access financial advice and support as part of the care assessment and planning process for everyone diagnosed with cancer.

Macmillan welcomed this but 3 years on, patients are not routinely being referred to welfare benefits advice services they need. The results of the All-Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey, show more than half of patients had not been given enough information about how to access welfare benefits services. In addition to this, our analysis of Health Boards’ Cancer Delivery Plans shows none of them have mentioned how they plan to meet this requirement.

A video about Macmillan grants. Sarah was supported by an Macmillan Cancer Support Welfare Benefits Advisor, after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The video still is an image of a grant application form.

Watch our video

Sarah, diagnosed with lung cancer, talks about how Macmillan helped her to cope with the cost of cancer

Watch our video

Sarah, diagnosed with lung cancer, talks about how Macmillan helped her to cope with the cost of cancer


What do we want

We are currently calling on Government and Health Boards to work together, and with organisations like Macmillan, to ensure this commitment is implemented consistently across Wales.

In 2014, Macmillan Welfare Benefits Advisers based in Wales, helped nearly 3000 people affected by cancer claim more than £13 million in benefits. They also made a huge contribution to ensuring more than £725,000 was accessed in Macmillan grants by people living in Wales.

  • 2014 – Welfare Benefits claimed £13,357,624.40
  • 2014 – Amount accessed in Macmillan grants £725,000

"Financial issues are just a massive problem for patients. And the more I worked in the clinics, the more the consultants have seen the work that I’ve done and they’ve certainly seen it in a positive light so it’s just gone from strength to strength."

- Owen Duggan, Macmillan WBA

'Financial issues are just a massive problem for patients' - Owen Duggan, Macmillan WBA

Owen Duggan, Macmillan WBA


What is the cost?

Having cancer is expensive. One in five people have problems paying their bills, rent or mortgage. It shouldn't be like this, but these are the facts. Read more about the cost of cancer in Wales in the sections below.


Increased costs over five years after diagnosis

The increased costs associated with a cancer diagnosis are likely to take up a large proportion of a person's income. 

Household bills can dramatically add up after a diagnosis. Fuel bills can escalate as patients are at home more than usual and more likely to feel the cold during treatment.

We have outlined the additional costs faced by people with cancer, in Wales, over a five-year period following diagnosis:

  • Newport, Torfaen, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Vale of Glamorgan, Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire and Flintshire faced increased costs of between £1,000-£1,500.
  • Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Conwy and Wrexham faced increased costs of between £1,501-£2,00. None faced increased costs of between £2,001-£2,500.
  • Powys faced increased costs of between £2,501-£3,000.


Loss of income over a five year period after diagnosis

Loss of income is one of the greatest financial issues for people diagnosed with cancer.

The income of a spouse or partner might also be affected if they need to give up work or reduce their hours in order to care for someone.

We have outlined below, the loss of income for people with cancer, in Wales, over a five-year period after diagnosis:

  • Blaenau Gwent, Ceredigion, Powys and Conwy faced a loss of income of between £14,000-£15,000.
  • Monmouthshire, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea and Conwy faced a loss of income of between £15,001 and £16,000.
  • Newport, Torfaen, Caerphilly, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire, Isle of Anglesey and Wrexham faced a loss of income of between £16,001 and £17,000.
  • Pembrokeshire, Denbighshire and Flintshire faced a loss of income of between £17,001 - £18,000.
  • Vale of Glamorgan faced a loss of income of between £18,001 - £19,000.


Read our full report


Share your story

We are interested in hearing from those who feel that they haven't received adequate financial help while living with cancer. We also want to hear about any help you have received.

Email us at walescampaigns@macmillan.org.uk

More stories about people affected by cancer in Wales

Nikki, Ceredigion

'You should not be penalised for having cancer.

'It’s the little things which you don’t think of. My husband, Ian, needed new clothes as he lost so much weight due to his oesophageal cancer, and we needed thicker duvets to keep him warm. We also needed £500 to fill up the oil tank for winter.

'If it hadn’t been for Lisa, our Macmillan Welfare and Benefits Adviser, I really have no idea how we would have survived as we had no money between June and October.'

I really have no idea how we would have survived as we had no money between June and October.

Nikki, Ceredigion

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Colin, Merthyr

Colin had been living on the Greek island of Kos for 5 years when he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in July 2011.

He returned to Merthyr thinking he could have quick treatment for the tumour and go straight back, but was told it had spread to his bones, spine and hip.

'I had been working abroad and came back with next to nothing.

'The housing association were great and gave me a flat, but I didn’t have a stick of furniture to put in it.

'Macmillan gave me a grant to buy furniture and do some decorating.

'I couldn’t have done it without them. Before that I was lost, frightened, confused and deeply troubled as I could not see how I was going to cope.

'I had never claimed a penny before and didn’t have a clue about benefits.'

Macmillan gave me a grant to buy furniture and do some decorating

Colin, Merthyr

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Sheila, Llandudno

'Before being diagnosed with cancer, I was running my family business and led an active life. But now I’ve had to close my business because it’s been too much to cope with all the worry. I was informed about financial support, but only when I kept telling people I was worried.'

It’s been too much to cope with all the worry

Sheila, Llandudno

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