Cancer forces tens of thousands into poverty

A survey revealed today by Macmillan Cancer Relief shows that up to three-quarters of cancer patients suffer from financial hardship.

In the survey, 77 per cent of patients said their cancer led to financial difficulties.¹ More than a million people in the UK have had a cancer diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis can be devastating but the actual cost of having cancer can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Many cancer patients claim that money worries are second only to pain as a cause of stress; some even say financial concerns are greater.²

A loss of income coupled with the extra costs of having cancer such as travel or parking charges can see patients crippled with debt. Lyndsay Baker, 37, from Luton, who was recently diagnosed, said: 'I took on several jobs to make ends meet but eventually felt too ill to work. With no income, extra costs for things like prescription charges meant I struggled with bills. I tried to stay positive but how could I when I was worried sick about money?'

Ray Strachan, 50, from Huntly, Aberdeenshire, added: 'I found it very hard and stressful to access benefits. My Macmillan social worker told me I was eligible and helped me fill out the forms. Even so I was rejected the first time and so I went to Appeal and won. You have to fight for everything.'

Today, Macmillan is launching a campaign to get a better deal for people dealing with cancer. The 'Better Deal' campaign will expose the huge problem of financial hardship, raise awareness of the help available to cancer patients and call on the Government to make access to benefits easier. At the moment, the benefits system is a complicated maze and cancer patients can find it hard to make a claim.

Cancer patients and carers may be entitled to claim benefits such as Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance, income support, Carer's Allowance or others. But a lack of knowledge, embarrassment or the sheer difficulties of claiming may stop them accessing these vital benefits.

Peter Cardy, Chief Executive, Macmillan Cancer Relief, said: 'It is unacceptable that cancer patients should suffer the huge problem of debt, poverty or financial hardship at a time when they are most vulnerable -- especially when help is available if only they knew about it. This is why Macmillan wants a better financial deal for people dealing with cancer and to see changes in the law so that claiming benefit is made much easier.'

People affected by cancer can get more information and a free booklet, 'Help with the cost of cancer', by calling the campaign hotline free on: 0800 500 800 or logging onto www.macmillan.org.uk/abetterdeal

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