In addition to the physical and emotional turmoil experienced by cancer patients, tens of thousands are also suffering financially, according to a new report.
More than 30,000 middle-aged people with cancer have had to borrow money from their elderly parents, research by Macmillan Cancer Support found.
An estimated 2,000 people have been forced to sell their homes and move in with their parents because of the costs associated with the illness.
Financial difficulties add a further layer of indignity to suffering cancer, can rob people of their independence and leave them feeling ashamed and distressed, Macmillan said in the new report, No Small Change.
For 83 per cent of cancer patients, lost income and increased expenditure – like travelling to hospital – brought about by the disease costs them an average of £570 a month, according to the research.
“It is heart-breaking that people in their 40s and 50s with cancer might have to go cap in hand to their elderly parents to ask for money simply to keep a roof over their head or put food on the table,” said Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan.
“The cost of cancer is robbing people of their independence and leaving them embarrassed, ashamed and dependent.”
Terry White was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma aged 56, and said it was “deeply embarrassing” having to ask his parents for help with finances during his treatment.
“Life before cancer had been comfortable,” he said. “I’d worked hard and saved hard but six months into an eight-month chemo regime our savings had dwindled to nothing and our finances had spiralled out of control.”
Mr White, from Nottinghamshire, had to claim benefits for the first time in his life and lived in constant fear of his home being repossessed.
“It got so bad that I had to borrow £2,000 from my 78-year-old parents,” he said.
“It was deeply embarrassing that at this time in my life I was going cap in hand to ask for their support.”
Macmillan expressed concern for the future, highlighting the growing numbers of British families in debt and the rising numbers of cancer diagnoses. Nearly half the population is predicted to get cancer at some point in their lives by 2020.
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The charity called for “urgent action”, particularly from the state and financial services.
“Borrowing money could cause tension amongst families at a time when people need support more than ever,” said Ms Thomas.
“While Macmillan is here for anyone facing money worries, we also need the Government, healthcare professionals and the banking and insurance sector to play their part to ease this burden.”
People worried about the financial impact of cancer can visit the Macmillan website