Life after cancer treatment

The impact of cancer often doesn’t end when treatment does. Everyone should be supported to live as well as possible for as long as possible after a cancer diagnosis.

You are now twice as likely to survive for at least 10 years after a cancer diagnosis than you were 40 years ago. This is fantastic news.

But living longer doesn’t always mean living well. Action must be taken to address the ongoing needs of the growing number of people who have finished treatment but are still struggling to cope with the impact of cancer on their lives.

What's the problem?

Living with physical or emotional problems for months, or even years, after treatment is all too common. The consequences of cancer and its treatment can include:

  • Chronic fatigue – this affects around 350,000 people in England alone.
  • Incontinence and bowel problems.
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, or depression.
  • Pain – 200,000 people in England are living with moderate to severe pain.

Six months after the end of their cancer treatment around 50% of people will have one or more unmet health need. Having cancer can also impact on all other aspects of people lives; including their social life and family relationships.

For many, life after treatment can be just as tough as cancer treatment itself.


What needs to change

The current aftercare system does not consistently provide people with the care and support they need after treatment. People often report that they feel like they have ‘fallen off a cliff', and don’t know what to expect or where to go for help.

We know that with the right care and support, people can often effectively manage the common issues they face after treatment ends. As more and more people live longer after a cancer diagnosis, the health system must adapt to support patients.


How we can improve life after treatment

We think people should be given the information, tools and encouragement to feel confident about managing their new reality after cancer treatment and to overcome the issues they face. This means:

  • The different ways cancer has affected someone’s life should be talked about from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond so that any needs they have can be identified and addressed, and a plan can be made for their ongoing care.
  • Communication between the hospital, GP practice and person with cancer should be improved, so that people feel that they still have a support network after treatment, and they and their GP know what problems to look out for.
  • People should be able to access the support available in their local community to help them adjust to life after treatment and feel less isolated.

To make sure this happens, we are calling for the right care and support – including a Recovery Package and tailored follow up care - to be made available to everyone with cancer, regardless of where they live.


What we are calling for


We are calling on the Government and NHS England to implement the recommendations in the 2015 Cancer Strategy for England.

In particular, we want to ensure that the commitment to everyone having access to a Recovery Package by 2020 is delivered on. We also want to make sure that data on the long-term quality of life of people with cancer is being collected and used to improve services.



Macmillan has invested £5M in the Transforming Care After Treatment (TCAT) programme, a partnership with the Scottish Government, the three cancer networks and local authorities. This programme is funding over 25 pilot projects within the NHS and councils across Scotland. Each project is unique, but all will test new and better ways to support patients after treatment ends.

The new cancer plan commits to Macmillan’s key policy of every patient receiving an Holistic Needs Assessment and care plan – and we will be working to ensure this pledge is met to support everyone living with and beyond cancer.


Wales/ Cymru

Macmillan believes that to achieve the best outcomes following a cancer diagnosis, person centred care must be at the heart of service delivery. Only by focusing on the whole person, can the patient’s experience during their cancer pathway be as good as it can possibly be. This is true for those who survive cancer, are living with or beyond cancer or someone who is nearing the end of life.

Person centred care remains a key aspiration within the Cancer Delivery Plan and Macmillan will work with the Welsh Government and the NHS to deliver it across Wales.

Byw gyda Chanser a Thu Hwnt

Cred Macmillan, er mwyn cyflawni’r canlyniadau gorau yn dilyn diagnosis o ganser, bod yn rhaid i ofal sydd yn canolbwyntio ar y person fod wrth wraidd darparu gwasanaeth. Dim ond trwy ganolbwyntio ar y person cyfan y gall profiad y claf ar eu llwybr trwy ganser fod cystal ag y gall fod. Mae hyn yn wir am y rheiny sy’n goroesi canser, yn byw gyda chanser neu y tu hwnt iddo neu rywun sydd yn agosáu at ddiwedd eu hoes.

Mae gofal sy'n canolbwyntio ar y person yn dal yn uchelgais allweddol yn y Cynllun Cyflenwi Canser a bydd Macmillan yn gweithio gyda Llywodraeth Cymru a'r GIG i'w gyflenwi ledled Cymru.


Northern Ireland

We are delighted that the principles of Transforming Cancer Follow Up are being rolled out to help more people live well after treatment for cancer.

We continue to call on all political parties to commit to making sure the ‘Recovery Package’ is available to every patient progressing through and beyond treatment for cancer.