Inequalities and cancer

The last few years have seen remarkable improvements and innovations in the treatment of cancer and in the delivery of care. However, this progress comes alongside significant inequalities that, at their most extreme, can determine people's chances of survival.

These inequalities in health can lead to differences in the quality and speed of diagnosis, the variety of treatments available, or rates of survival. But inequalities can also be seen quite clearly in the:

  • quality of patient experience, including the relationship between patients and professionals.
  • equality of voice, including those from frequently ignored communities.
  • ability to self-manage, including access to involvement, patient leadership, or peer support activities.
  • allocation of resources.

We can overcome the inequalities and barriers some people living with cancer experience. Macmillan’s Inclusion department believes that if we focus on tackling inequality and understanding its root causes we can achieve outstanding cancer care services for all, not just for some. We see inequalities as belonging not just to the communities who experience them, but as a fundamental insight into our health and social care systems. Focussing on these systems can lead to opportunities for innovation and new thinking about service design and community building.

What inclusion does

One of the core principles of the health and social care system in the UK is that access to, and appropriate delivery of, the best quality services is available to everyone. This applies irrespective of race, age, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, income, disability or religion. And yet, health consistently remains one of the great focal points of inequality and a central concern in public health policy, especially when it comes to cancer.

We believe the key to addressing this lies in understanding the root causes of these inequalities and enabling people, communities and the system to work together to create solutions.

Macmillan works with people affected by cancer, professionals and key stakeholders to affect change at a national level that accounts for every person affected by cancer. We are working to ensure:

  • variation in patient experience is reduced for people living with cancer from frequently ignored communities and groups
  • all people living with cancer can appropriately self-manage, access what they want and need from their peers and community, and that there is support available for them to do so.
  • all people are able to co-design and co-decide what they want and need, to live well with and beyond cancer
  • all people living with cancer have a positive experience of care.
  • older people living with cancer have equal access to high quality and appropriate support.