Column: Financial and emotional cost of cancer

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Cancer care is something I’m very involved with, both at a strategic level in helping develop new services, but also as a local GP caring for patients.

Last week I met a Doncaster mum who knows all too well the financial as well as emotional cost of cancer and has nothing but praise for the help she’s had from the Macmillan Cancer Support charity.

Diane Mason, aged 47, was given a helping hand by Macmillan’s Doncaster-based Living Well team after being diagnosed with breast cancer in February.

From being a successful business owner, her lifewas turned upside down by the diagnosis. Having treatment meant she had to stop work, which in turn brought an instant end to her income stream.

But a visit to the Living Well base, at Balby’s St John’s Information Centre, quickly helped Diane on to her feet again. The team helped her apply for a Personal Independence Payment from the Government, and a grant from Macmillan.

Diane told me she doesn’t know what she would have done without them.

She said no one expects the financial and emotional trauma of cancer but help was freely available through the Macmillan Support Line (0808 808 00 00), where you can talk to someone who ‘gets it’ and is an expert in what they’re talking about.

I met Diane and the Living Well team on the Macmillan information bus when it parked up outside Doncaster’s Frenchgate Centre. They said the number of cancer patients seeking help for money worries has risen sharply in the last year according to the charity’s research, with rising prices and an increase in debt being suggested as a possible cause.

For the majority of people diagnosed with cancer (83 per cent), the disease costs an average of £570 per month. This is a result of lost income – if they are too ill to work – and increased expenses.

Extra expenses could include petrol if they need to travel to hospital or more expensive food if their dietary requirements have changed because of treatment. Macmillan says it has reported an increase in calls to its helpline, emails and referrals for people needing financial advice.

The Macmillan Living Well Cancer Information and Support Service is part funded by the charity and NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group, in partnership with Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust. It offers a lifeline to local people by helping them tap into any financial support that may be available to them.

Last year the team helped more than 1,000 people get vital funds after a cancer diagnosis.

For advice on cancer and money worries call 01302 796853.