16 February 2016
Susan Selkirk with her daughter Charlotte
A leading cancer charity is calling on every political party in Scotland to commit to urgently fixing Scotland’s outdated cancer care system.
Macmillan Cancer Support made the call as it revealed there will be an estimated 260,000[i] people in Scotland living with cancer by the end of the next Scottish Parliamentary term in 2020.
This is a rise of 40% (70,000 people) since 2010 when 190,000 people were living with cancer and an increase from the 220,000 people estimated to be living with the impact of the illness today.
The charity say that despite the huge increase in people living with cancer, the current system of cancer care isn’t set up to help people cope with the emotional, financial and physical problems cancer causes.
This means too many cancer patients are left cope alone with problems from debt and depression to extreme fatigue and social isolation.
Macmillan’s head in Scotland, Janice Preston, said: “Too many cancer patients are being let down by our outdated system.
“As more people are living longer after being diagnosed with cancer, there needs to be a complete transformation in how cancer patients are supported.
“Early detection and good treatment are vital, but it’s not good enough to treat the illness and fail to address what the person needs. Cancer doesn’t happen to a body part. It happens to a person.
“It often impacts on every aspect of life, causing problems from homelessness and debt to depression and mobility issues. These problems can last long after treatment ends.
“We believe cancer patients in Scotland deserve better than this and we are asking our political parties to show us that they agree by pledging support for our manifesto calls ahead of the May election.”
Macmillan wants every political party to sign up to urgently revise and publish the eight-year-old cancer plan for Scotland (Better Cancer Care, 2008).
The charity says the new plan must include a commitment to ensuring every cancer patient is offered an assessment of their emotional, financial and practical needs followed by on-going support.
One woman who agrees cancer impacts on every aspect of life is mum Susan Selkirk who struggled with feelings of guilt after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Susan, 40, was diagnosed in February last year after taking her then three-year-old daughter Charlotte to the doctor and deciding to get a lump in her breast checked out while she was there.
The Newton Mearns woman, who at the time was working as the West of Scotland fundraising manager for Macmillan, said: “I got great information about treatments I was going to go through and side effects of the medication I was going to be given.
“But I didn’t know about the wider impact cancer would have or the long-lasting side effects, such as chemo brain.
“I lose my words mid-sentence. I lose my train of thought. I can’t stand lots of noise. If Charlotte and my husband Neil are talking to me and the radio is on, by the time they all leave in the morning I feel I need to sit down and go back to bed.
“I feel a huge amount of guilt which is a weird emotion to have, I felt guilty about being ill, putting Neil and mum through watching me being ill.
“During treatment it was hard being away from my family so much. I was in hospital for weeks at a time and I nearly missed Charlotte's 4th birthday
“After my treatment finished came the worry that it will come back again - I worry about what impact a second diagnosis would have on the close family.
“I was lucky that I having worked for Macmillan I knew about some of the support available.
“It’s awful to think of someone going through cancer without the right help just because they don’t know it’s there for them.”
Visit Macmillan’s election campaign page for more information