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Cancer costs

Four in five (83%) cancer patients are hit with an average cost of £570 a month as a result of their illness,(1) comparable to a monthly mortgage payment,(2) according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support.
For the very first time, a UK-wide study conducted by the University of Bristol has looked at how cancer impacts on patients’ finances. The results reveal that as the economic crisis continues to bite, people living with cancer have to cope with additional financial burdens such as expensive hospital travel costs and increased fuel bills as a result of treatment.
Not only do people living with cancer have to find the money to cover these extra costs, one in three (30%) are actually losing on average a shocking £860 a month in earnings because they are unable to work or have to cut down their hours.
Six in seven (85%) cancer patients see their monthly expenses shoot up by £270 a month on average.(3) This consists of:
  • Travelling to appointments, which costs two in three (69%) £170 a month.
  • Car parking fees for outpatient appointments, which costs three in eight (38%) £37 a month.(4)
  • Fuel bills, which cost one in three (33%) £24 a month.
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medicines, which cost one in five (22%) £8 a month.(5)
The new research shows that the financial burden of cancer is not the same for everyone. Those in work, and those with children are more likely to bear the costs of their illness and the average monthly total is twice as high as for those who are not in work or who do not have any children.(6) Unfairly, the impact for those on low incomes is twice the size of those on the highest incomes.(7) Similarly those with a rarer cancer(8) are hit with a bill (£890 a month) twice the size as that of someone with colorectal or prostate cancer.
Mario Barlaba, 52 from Staffordshire, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2006, he says:
“I had everything ripped away from me. I lost my business, I lost my home – all because of my cancer diagnosis. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I spent sleepless nights alone worrying about where the money was going to come from to buy things for basic living. It was very scary – there was a point when I could’ve been homeless.”
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
“This new research shows that cancer comes with a whopping price tag for many patients. Combined with the current recession and with welfare cuts, the cost of the disease is hitting the most vulnerable hardest. With the number of people living with cancer in the UK doubling from two to four million by 2030, this is a growing problem which cannot be ignored.(9)
“Cancer costs the equivalent of a second mortgage. We must act now to protect the financially vulnerable from having to foot the bill for their illness.”
Macmillan believes no-one should face financial worries alone and is calling on governments, businesses and the NHS to act urgently to ensure the right support is offered at the right time to ease the terrible financial strain on people living with cancer.
  1. Total cost figure includes additional expenditure and loss of income. All cost figures show the mean average for all those incurring that cost. Three-digit figures have been rounded to the nearest 10 to make them more accessible. Figures based on a postal survey of 1,610 adults with a cancer diagnosis, recruited from a database of callers to the Macmillan Support Line and visitors to a sample of Macmillan Information and Support Centres located in hospitals across the UK. The majority (95%) had received cancer treatment within the last six months. Fieldwork took place between August and October 2012. Results were weighted to be representative of all people with a cancer diagnosis in the UK by age, gender, cancer type and country of residence. The research was commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol Personal Finance Research Centre in partnership with TNS BMRB, and part-funded by our partner The RBS Group.
  2. Average mortgage payment in the UK for someone with a 30% deposit is £580 a month, according to the Halifax Affordability Review 2013:…, accessed March 2013
  3. The proportion of survey respondents who incurred increased expenditure (85%) is higher than the proportion who incurred a negative financial impact overall (83%) because a small percentage of those who incurred increased expenditure made savings in other areas, so are not included in the 83% figure.
  4. Cancer patients in England have to pay out the most cash as parking is free in most hospitals in the rest of the UK.
  5. Prescriptions are free for cancer patients in England but in-depth research found some cancer patients didn’t realise this and paid for their medicines.  Over-the-counter charges are likely to be the main issues for patients in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales where prescription charges are free for everyone.
  6. Ninety-one percent of those who were working at the time of their diagnosis incurred a cost, compared with 78% of those who were not. They were 16% more likely to incur costs than those who are not employed at time of diagnosis; average monthly cost for those who incur a cost is more than twice as high (£880 compared with £360). 93% of survey respondents with children incurred a cost, compared with 82% of those without. Parents were 13% more likely to incur costs than those who do not have children; average monthly cost for those who incur a cost is around twice as high (£1060 compared with £520).
  7. For those incurring a cost, the average cost for survey respondents with a low monthly household income of less than £430 is £1,020 a month, compared with £460 a month for those with a high monthly household income of £2,150 or more, largely driven by greater income loss for the former group.
  8. Defined in the survey as ‘other’; excludes breast, prostate, cervix, ovary, uterus, colorectal, lung, bronchus, trachea, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, kidney, bladder, lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma. Those with a rarer cancer incur the highest average monthly costs (£890 for those who incur a cost, compared with £360 for those with prostate cancer and £420 for those with colorectal cancer).
  9. Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010-2040. Br J Cancer 2012; 107: 1195-1202. (Projections scenario 1 presented here).