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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Call for 'recovery package' to ensure cancer patients get support at end of treatment

Written by Ella Pickover

Many cancer patients are "left to struggle" following the end of their treatment, a charity has said.

Physical problems which can arise as a result of some cancer treatments such as incontinence, difficulty eating or breathlessness as well as mental health issues can mar people's recoveries, according to a new report.

But Macmillan Cancer Support said that many patients are being "let down at their time of need".

People are twice as likely to survive for a decade after a cancer diagnosis compared to 40 years ago. But many who survive their illness are living in poor health, the charity said.

Macmillan surveyed more than 2,000 people with a previous cancer diagnosis for its latest report, titled Am I meant to be OK now?, and found a third (34%) were still struggling with their physical well-being up to two years after treatment ended.

Two in five said they still had moderate or extreme pain or discomfort two years after finishing treatment.

The majority of patients (80%) who had physical difficulties in the two years after treatment said they lacked full support to get their lives back on track.

Former patients were also suffering emotional problems, with three in 10 reporting that their emotional well-being was still affected two years after completing treatment.

Of these, 90% said they lacked support.

The Macmillan report states that instead of feelings of elation and relief when treatment is over, patients frequently experience depression or anxiety - often as a result of feeling that they are not able to 'get back to normal'.

The charity called on the NHS to ensure that each patient has a "recovery package" of personalised post-treatment support.

"It is tragic that so many people are left struggling after their cancer treatment ends," said Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support.

"Life is often profoundly different after the roller coaster of diagnosis and treatment ends, with people contending with serious physical and emotional issues.

"The health and care system has a long way to go in terms of fully supporting people after cancer treatment.

"The NHS must ensure that every single person who is treated for cancer gets the support that is right for them after treatment - far too many cancer patients are badly being let down in their time of need."

An NHS England spokeswoman said: "As Macmillan is aware, we are investing £200 million over the next two years to improve cancer services including specifically rolling out the 'Recovery Package' to ensure all patients receive the right support.

"The NHS is aiming to achieve this by 2020 and we are actively working with local cancer services and Macmillan."

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