‘Wales Not Getting Basics Of Cancer Care Right’

Breast cancer patients in Wales are not receiving the support they need to help them cope with the potentially lethal illness. Women have also spoken about the frustration and agony of having to wait to start treatment.

And a Breast Cancer Care Cymru survey has revealed more than half of patients have concerns about the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis – including the cost of parking at hospital and the availability of benefits.

The findings come just weeks after a National Assembly review of cancer care found glaring gaps in services.

The review by the health and social services committee, found that Wales was not getting the basics of cancer care right.

It said patients are struggling to access services in some parts of Wales and suffer distressing, and sometimes harmful, delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Laura Jones, Breast Cancer Care Cymru’s acting head of services, said, “It is hard enough to cope with the initial devastating diagnosis and subsequent treatment, but this survey shows that men and women in Wales are not receiving basic information about their condition and care.

“Without this information, they are unable to make full, informed decisions about their treatment, and this could cause them to suffer undue stress and uncertainty.”

The online survey, completed by almost 200 people in Wales, found widespread concerns.

Four out of 10 raised concerns about the length of referral and diagnostic waiting times.

Welsh Assembly Government figures show that 91% of breast cancer patients referred as urgent cases received treatment within two months.

But Breast Cancer Care Cymru said while this was “encouraging”, “achieving the target for all patients would go a long way to alleviating the additional stress faced by patients who experience delays in starting treatment and worry that this may negatively affect their treatment.”

Ms Jones added, “When anyone is told that they have cancer, it is an extremely scary and difficult time – they want to start treatment as soon as possible. We must give clear information to help people through that waiting time, which is often an anxious time.”

The Breast Cancer Care Cymru survey also highlights the need for better support and information about the disease at all stages.

Adele McMahon, 32, from Pengam, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2005, said she was given very little information at diagnosis.

“I only found out what type of breast cancer I had when I asked; nobody thought to tell me.

“I was going back for another biopsy, and was told that I could ask some more questions at that point. When I was there and said that I had questions, the consultant told me to hurry up as he had other people waiting.

“That was the kind of attitude that I came up against. I changed consultants soon after that.”

Ann Hibbott from Newtown, Powys, who had a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, said, “As with the chemotherapy, when I started the radiotherapy there was this initial panic of what’s going to happen to me, is it going to melt my bones?

“When you go for treatment the hospital staff tell you to go this way and take this off and put this on, and inside you’re petrified.

“I don’t think they stop and think that, while they do this all the time, the person they are treating has never done it before.

“You go along with the experts and take their advice, but at the time you’re scared stiff.”