The shocking financial cost of cancer

Four in five (83 percent) of cancer patients face an average cost of £570 a month as a result of their illness, the same as the average monthly mortgage payment, according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support.

That means that most of the 2,650 people diagnosed with cancer in Cambridgeshire each year will be hit with these extra costs.

For the very first time, a UK-wide study conducted by the University of Bristol has looked at how cancer impacts on patients’ finances. The results reveal that as the economic crisis continues to bite, people living with cancer have to cope with additional financial burdens such as expensive hospital travel costs and increased fuel bills as a result of treatment. Last year, in Cambridgeshire, Macmillan gave 282 people financial assistance totalling £79,692.

Macmillan benefits advisers currently help people affected by cancer to claim £191 million a year in additional income, but says that millions more go unclaimed by cancer patients because of the complexity of the claiming process and the difficulties in accessing advice.

The charity says not only do people living with cancer have to find the money to cover these extra costs but one in three (30%) are actually losing on average £860 a month in earnings because they are unable to work or have to cut down their hours.

Six in seven (85%) cancer patients see their monthly expenses shoot up by £270 a month on average. This consists of:

Travelling to appointments, which costs two in three (69%) £170 a month.

Car parking fees for outpatient appointments, which costs three in eight (38%) £37 a month.

Fuel bills, which cost one in three (33%) £24 a month.

Over-the-counter or prescription medicines, which cost one in five (22%) £8 a month.

The new research shows that the financial burden of cancer is not the same for everyone. Those in work, and those with children are more likely to bear the costs of their illness and the average monthly total is twice as high as for those who are not in work or who do not have any children. Unfairly, the impact for those on low incomes is twice the size of those on the highest incomes. Similarly, those with a rarer cancer are hit with a bill (£890 a month) twice the size as that of someone with colorectal or prostate cancer.

Margaret Boyd, 65 from Alconbury was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She says: “When I was diagnosed with cancer, money became one of my biggest worries, after my health. I had given up my job due to ill health so my monthly income decreased dramatically.

“I felt cold all the time so our fuel bills shot up as I left the heating on all day. I contacted my local Macmillan welfare adviser and she was fantastic – helping me to claim the benefits I am entitled to and pointing me in the direction of a Macmillan grant to use for a new comfortable chair.”

Carol Fenton, Macmillan Cancer Support General Manager for the region says: “This new research shows that cancer comes with a whopping price tag for many patients. Combined with the current recession and with welfare cuts, the cost of the disease is hitting the most vulnerable hardest. With the number of people living with cancer in the UK doubling from two to four million by 2030, this is a

growing problem which cannot be ignored.

“Cancer costs the equivalent of a second mortgage. We must act now to protect the financially vulnerable from having to foot the bill for their illness.”

Macmillan believes no-one should face financial worries alone and is calling on governments, businesses and the NHS to act urgently to ensure the right support is offered at the right time to ease the financial strain on people living with cancer.

* For financial support visit www.macmillan.org.uk/financialsupport to find your nearest face-to face-benefits adviser, or call 0808 808 00 00.