Cancer costs too high for average Welsh family, charity says

Most people in Wales cannot financially afford to get cancer because of the increased living costs, a cancer charity has said.

Macmillan Cancer Support estimates the disease costs people diagnosed in Wales about £760 a month.

The average family would be left with a shortfall of about £270 per month, the charity has estimated.

The outgoing Welsh Government said it had helped fund the Tenovus charity to deliver welfare benefits advice.

Macmillan urged people to seek the help available which can reduce people’s money worries.

Last year, it assisted 3,000 people in obtaining £13.2m in benefits due to their illness.

The previous Welsh Government said it provided funding to charity Tenovus to help deliver a welfare benefits advice service for people to claim financial entitlements, which unlocked a further £2.2m in support after 9,000 people got in touch in 2014-15.

Macmillan calculated the cost of living with cancer by looking at increased expenses such as extra help, travel and heating costs and loss of income suffered by people with the disease.

In 2013, it said cancer was costing sufferers £640 a month on average.

Macmillan said the average family could be forced to turn to their savings, credit cards, take out a loan or even sell their home to cover any shortfall in costs.

Case Study

Cath Harding, 58, from Porthmadog, Gwynedd, was diagnosed with cancer in January 2015.

She said: “I was totally floored. I went numb. It was the last thing I expected them to say. I was told that I could be off work for up to 12 months. And then it hit me. How am I going to pay my bills?

“When I became ill all my expenses increased too. I had to buy gluten-free bread, which was over £2 a loaf instead of 35p. And my heating bills went up because I felt cold all the time.”

Macmillan Wales’ head of services, Susan Morris, said: “In Wales, 19,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year and almost half the population is predicted to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives by 2020.

“In the recent assembly elections, Macmillan Wales called for a new cancer plan for government where all people with cancer are offered access to timely financial advice before any financial problems escalate.

“At a time when thousands of families are struggling to make ends meet, a cancer diagnosis can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, sending them into financial freefall.”

Referring to the work of the previous Welsh Government, a spokesman said since the cancer patient experience survey was conducted in 2013 it had issued guidance to local health boards defining the role of the cancer key worker to improve the number of people “signposted” to financial advice and support.

It said it also supported patients “more broadly through the provision of free prescriptions and free hospital parking”.

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