Isolated cancer patients going hungry, says report

DERBYSHIRE cancer patients are going hungry and missing medical appointments because of a lack of support from family and friends, according to a shocking new report.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s Facing the Fight Alone report looks at the number, profile and experiences of isolated people living with cancer across the UK and found that the detrimental effects of isolation on the lives of people with cancer are far-reaching.

Nearly one in five (18 per cent) of the 3,900 newly diagnosed cancer patients in Derbyshire, an estimated 700 patients each year, lack support from family and friends during their treatment and recovery, according to the report.

Of these, an estimated 250 people each year will receive no help whatsoever, facing cancer completely alone.

More than half (53 per cent) of isolated patients have skipped meals or not eaten properly due to a lack of support at home while more than one in four (27 per cent) have not been able to wash themselves properly. Three in five (60 per cent) have been unable to do household chores.

Over one in ten (11 per cent) have missed hospital or GP appointments while one in six (18 per cent) have been unable to pick up prescriptions for their medication.

Family members and friends living too far away, having other commitments or patients just having no-one to turn to are the most common reasons patients lack support. Other than a visit from a health professional, one in eight (12 per cent) of people living with cancer surveyed haven’t had a single visit from friends or family in over six months.

Jane Rudge, Senior Macmillan Development Manager for the East Midlands, said: “This research shows that isolation can have a truly shattering impact on people living with cancer.

“Patients are going hungry, missing medical appointments and even deciding to reject treatment altogether which could be putting their lives at risk — all because of a lack of support.

“But these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. As the number of people living with cancer is set to double from two to four million by 2030, isolation will become an increasing problem and we need to address this now.

“That’s why we are launching a new campaign to help tackle this crisis and to ensure that in future, no-one faces cancer alone.”