Just How Much Does Cancer Cost?

What are the side effects of cancer? Weight loss, nausea, tiredness. These are all recognisable to any of us who have been affected by cancer. But poverty, homelessness, bankruptcy, these ‘side effects’ are less frequently in the headlines.

Leading cancer charity, Macmillan Cancer Support last week launched a financial and benefits advice partnership to help people in Fermanagh cope with the costs of cancer. Macmillan’s research has shown that stress and money worries come second only to physical pain as a ‘side effect’ of the disease.

The new service is first of its kind in Northern Ireland, and is a four-way partnership between Foyle and Altnagelvin Trusts, Galliagh Integrated Advice Service and Macmillan Cancer Support.It will be located in Altnagelvin Area Hospital, helping people from across the Western Health Board Area and drawing on Macmillan’s experience in welfare benefits advice throughout the rest of the UK.

Macmillan is funding a full time and a part time specialist cancer benefits’ advisor and an administrative assistant. The service will provide advice to people attending the cancer unit in Altnagelvin Hospital for their treatment. Patients undergoing treatment often have to make long journeys and spend long periods of time at hospital, so the new service means they can get advice and treatment at one location.

The service will provide a specialist financial and benefits advice, as well as help with filling out benefits forms, advocacy services and training for health and social care staff.

In Scotland alone, Macmillan’s financial advice partnerships have already helped people affected by cancer access almost £20 million in unclaimed benefits since 2003.

Macmillan has been campaigning on cancer poverty for some time now. The charity’s, ‘Hitting Homes’ campaign revealed that 6 per cent of people lose their home after being diagnosed with cancer and that 18 per cent have difficulties in keeping up with their mortgage or rental payments. Macmillan is also calling for all cancer patients to be entitled to free hospital parking and financial help with travel costs.