● Research from Maggie’s reveals the long-term impact of cancer on mental health
● 52% feel there is support for the physical but not the emotional effects of cancer
● 47% of people with cancer don’t know where to go for mental health support
Research published today by national cancer charity Maggie’s has revealed 3 in 5 (58%) people who have or have had cancer feel that the mental challenge of cancer is harder to cope with than the physical treatment and side effects.
Despite the strain placed on mental health as a result of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, 52% of people with cancer felt there was support for the physical impact of cancer but not the emotional effects of cancer. Furthermore, 47% of people with cancer didn't know where to go for mental health support.
The survey of 1,000 people who have or have had cancer, also revealed the shocking long-term impact of cancer on mental health. While practical support during diagnosis and treatment for cancer is widely available, the effect on their mental health is cited as a long term challenge, faced on a daily basis.
More than two thirds (69%) of people with cancer stated that low mood, sleeplessness and feelings of overwhelm, distress, loneliness and isolation were some of the hardest things to deal with throughout their diagnosis and treatment.
These feelings were even stronger post-treatment with 82% of people with cancer stating that the fear of cancer returning, not feeling like your ‘old self’, feelings of depression or low mood, pressure to ‘get back to normal’ and feelings of loneliness and isolation were some of the hardest things to deal with post their cancer treatment. 56% of those surveyed stated that the single hardest thing to deal with post-treatment was the fear of cancer returning.
Unsurprisingly the pandemic has also had a detrimental effect, with almost half (49%) of people with cancer stating that the combination of coronavirus, shielding, lockdown and their cancer diagnoses had a negative impact on their mental health.
Maggie’s is there for everyone with cancer, providing practical and emotional support, from the point of diagnosis onwards. Professional staff can help people to manage their feelings when they have cancer, before, during and after treatment. Support includes practical ways of dealing with a diagnosis, emotions and treatment, concerns around self-image, emotions after treatment, advanced cancer, dying and emotions and fear of cancer returning.
Every Maggie’s has a cancer support specialist who can help people when they are scared, worried or feeling down. To meet more in-depth emotional needs each Maggie’s also offers appointments with psychologists, either one to one in private or in a group with family members. Part of Maggie’s psychological support also involves bringing people together, either informally round the kitchen table, in courses and workshops, or psychologist facilitated support groups.
Dame Laura Lee DBE, Chief Executive of national cancer charity, Maggie’s said: “We need to wake up to the fact that cancer is a mental challenge as well as a physical one and that people are not getting the support they need.
“This has always been the case and is what we see and hear in our centres every day; that from the point of diagnosis onwards people can feel stress, fear, anxiety, low mood and distress - and often these feelings continue long after treatment has stopped.
“But we have 25 years of expertise in helping people with the mental and emotional, as well as the physical challenges of cancer. Our expert staff in our centres, in particular our cancer support and information specialists and our psychologists, can help people manage their emotions in a way that helps them to live well with cancer.
“We need to take these figures seriously and make sure as many people as possible get the support they need, now when they need it more than ever.”
Bami Adenipekun who is living with breast cancer and is supported by Maggie’s in South Wales, said: “You are constantly reminded of your mortality. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, it doesn’t matter how positive you are. It is a disservice to people with cancer and very short-sighted to not have access to psychological support. It has to be part of the care package, not an afterthought.”
Robin Muir, Clinical Psychologist and Maggie’s Manchester Centre Head, said: “We know from our 25 years of experience and expertise that feelings of low mood, distress, loneliness and isolation are very common among people with a cancer diagnosis as well as post treatment.
“And more importantly, we want people to know that our centres have the expertise to help people manage these emotions.
“Our support can make a tremendous difference to people’s lives and help them to live as well as possible with cancer.”
Maggie’s is urging everyone living with or impacted by cancer, regardless of cancer type or stage to visit their website for more information and support and to find their nearest centre.