Cancer Costs Patients Their Homes

Cancer is costing patients their homes, a survey suggests. A Macmillan Cancer Support survey of 1,751 patients found 6% lost their home following their diagnosis. The figure rose to 11% among the self-employed. Another 18% had difficulties keeping up rent or mortgage payments, the survey found. Not only can a cancer diagnosis make it hard to work, but it can also mean extra fuel, food, drug and hospital parking bills.

The survey found cancer patients with children were most likely to be affected. Almost a third (28%) of cancer patients with children under 18 had difficulties keeping up with payments compared with 15% of those without.

A quarter (25%) of patients aged 35 to 44 found repayments a problem compared with 6% of those aged over 65.

Peter Cardy, Macmillan chief executive, said the findings were “shocking”. He said the survey suggested that as many as 45,000 cancer patients each year struggled to keep a roof over their heads – and 15,000 lost their homes.

He said: “Having cancer should not cost you your home. Too many people are facing overwhelming financial pressures at a time when they are fighting cancer – borrowing money, moving in with family, selling up or moving to help make ends meet. Some even face repossession.”

The charity wants to see all cancer patients given access to specialist benefits advice and financial help. It has launched a new “Hitting Home” campaign to help patients check their insurance policies, talk to their mortgage lender and get advice on claiming benefits.

Deborah Soesan, from Coventry, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2003. She is married with five children. She had to give up her job after being diagnosed. Then her husband lost his job. They have had to take two mortgage breaks already and may have to take a further one.

They have also had to change their mortgage from an endowment to an interest-only one. Deborah admits she doesn’t know how they will ever manage to pay off the debt. She said: “When you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, your main thing is to survive. Then as you start to recover, you encounter all these money problems. You feel like you are being punished. It’s harder than all the other stuff you have to go through.”

Paula and Stephen Tansley, from Colchester, have also struggled to keep their house. Paul gave up work to look after Stephen, who was diagnosed with leukaemia. He was made redundant from his work after being diagnosed. They found it difficult to keep up with their mortgage payments and have taken their case to court. They have managed to negotiate that they pay the interest only on their mortgage. However, they are still having trouble in keeping up with their payments.

Each year over 250,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK.