Macmillan Cancer Support estimates that 220,000 people living in Scotland have been diagnosed with cancer – a record high and an increase of around 33,000 since 2010.
It is calling for a “complete transformation” of the way people are supported after their treatment ends to cope with the long-term impacts cancer can have, ranging from physical side-effects like extreme fatigue to psychological problems.
The increase in people living with cancer is said to be largely due to improvements in survival and detection, and a growing and ageing population.
The figures have led to a call from Scottish Labour for the adoption of a “radical” approach by the Scottish Government in tackling cancer.
Macmillan said that around one in four people across the UK who has been diagnosed with cancer faces poor health or disability after treatment, while many also face significant emotional, financial and practical problems.
Janice Preston, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: “With the number of people living with cancer increasing each year, the seriousness of the challenge facing us cannot be overstated.
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“The current NHS system was not set up to deal with the needs of such a huge number of people who have survived cancer but who often continue to require considerable support. Without a complete transformation in how people are supported after their treatment ends, there is no way patients will get the support they desperately need, whether that’s help to cope at home, financial help or even emotional support.
“It’s vital the Scottish Government, NHS and social care services use the forthcoming integration of health and social care to recognise the scale of the challenge and commit to making the big changes needed to meet it.”
Macmillan is already working with the Scottish Government, NHS and local authorities to fund the £5 million “transforming care after treatment” programme. Launched in June 2013, the programme is funding pilot projects across the NHS and in local authorities to test better ways of supporting patients.
Alan Clarke, 48, a father-of-two, agrees that change is needed. The former advertising executive, who now works in the music industry, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2008.
Mr Clarke, from Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire, underwent a 12-hour operation as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He said: “It’s only once treatment finishes and one is back living a ‘normal’ life that just how not normal things will ever be again strikes home.
“For me that impacted on my work as I could no longer do my old job. It impacted on me emotionally, leaving me dealing with many mental gremlins.
“It also impacted on my everyday communication as the chemo affected my hearing, and the surgery and radiotherapy affected my speech.”
Health secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government is working in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support to take forward its Transforming Care after Treatment Programme.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: “These are hugely concerning figures.
“The SNP need to address the unacceptable situation that over half of Scotland’s health boards are missing their targets on cancer treatment.”
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