Warning over inequalities among cancer patients

Macmillan Cancer Support warned that more than 20,000 cancer patients live in Scotland's most deprived areas. Picture: Getty
Macmillan Cancer Support warned that more than 20,000 cancer patients live in Scotland's most deprived areas. Picture: Getty
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EIGHT out of 10 long-term survivors of cancer come from the most affluent parts of the UK, a new study exposing health inequalities has found.

The people who survive longest after diagnosis are more likely to live in the richest regions and to have cancers with better survival rates such as breast cancer or skin cancer, according to Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Cancer Intelligence Network.

The charity warned that more than 20,000 cancer patients live in Scotland’s most deprived areas, facing higher levels of unemployment and financial hardship.

Janice Preston, head of services for Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, said: “A cancer diagnosis can often be financially crippling and the impact can be even tougher on those already dealing with deprivation.”

The research, being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Liverpool tomorrow, reveals that around 5,000 women with breast cancer and more than 2,000 men with prostate cancer are living in Scotland’s poorest communities. There are also more than 2,500 people with bowel cancer and around 1,700 people with lung cancer.

Ms Preston said: “Unfortunately we know too many people who desperately need their help don’t know these services exist so we are urging more people to contact their local benefits advisors.

“In addition to this day-to-day work, we urgently need a new Scottish cancer plan, one that commits to ensuring the financial, emotional and practical needs of every cancer patient will be met by a package of support tailored to the individual’s needs.”

Scots in the poorest communities are around three times more likely to suffer from cancers with a poor prognosis such as lung, cervical and liver, raising concerns that public health messages over cervical screening, alcohol abuse and smoking were not getting through.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP said: “We need to ensure that the NHS is able to put the right resources in the right places.

“With lung, liver and cervical cancer affecting people in more deprived areas at a greater rate, we need to assess whether public health messages around smoking and alcohol are being targeted effectively and proper care services are in place.

“Closing health inequalities is a huge challenge. This report shows the extent of the work that remains to be done.”

Health Secretary, Shona Robison said: “We are working to increase awareness of the facts about cancer screening so that more people can make an informed choice around participating, particularly in less affluent areas where we know that uptake of screening services can be lower.

“We have invested £39 million in our award-winning Detect Cancer Early Programme which encourages people to report symptoms early, and get treatment as soon as possible.

“It is encouraging that the number of people in Scotland living for up to five years after a cancer diagnosis is now at a record high.”

The Scottish Government will publish a new draft Cancer Plan early next year.