Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Cancer leaves patients isolated

Many cancer patients said they felt they had no-one to turn to

Around 700 newly diagnosed cancer patients in Northern Ireland each year lack support from friends and family during their treatment, new research has indicated.

The number who said they experienced isolation represented almost 10% of the 8,000 who are diagnosed with the disease every 12 months, according to the study by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Around 400 of those patients said they received no help whatsoever and had to face cancer completely alone.

Common explanations provided by those questioned included family members and friends living too far away or having other commitments. Many patients said they felt they had no-one to turn to.

Elsewhere in the UK the issue appears even more acute, with the nationwide study by Macmillan finding that almost one in four (70,000) of 325,000 newly diagnosed patients lack support from family and friends, with around 20,000 of those saying they had faced cancer completely alone.

Macmillan's General Manager in Northern Ireland, Heather Monteverde, said: "It's encouraging that cancer patients in Northern Ireland are significantly less likely to feel isolated than the UK average, however we don't want anyone to face cancer on their own.

"There is a lot of help out there for cancer patients from charities like Macmillan whether it's face to face, over the phone or online, but often people don't know about it.

"We want all cancer patients to know there is support available and I'd urge anyone in need of help to get in touch with Macmillan.

"It's also vitally important that medical professionals understand the impact isolation can have on people with cancer and direct them to sources of support including Macmillan.

"I would also ask those who know someone going through cancer to take the time to ask them how they are feeling and if they need some help. That could make a big difference to how they feel."

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