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Half a million people with cancer ‘afraid to leave the house’ – UK survey

By Catherine Wylie, PA

Half a million people with cancer in the UK are afraid to the leave the house due to the threat of coronavirus, a survey suggests.

Macmillan Cancer Support is warning of the devastating impact the virus is having on the physical and mental health of people facing both cancer and Covid-19 at the same time.

Research from the charity suggests that 19% of cancer sufferers in the UK – around 570,000 people – have barely left the house because they are scared to do so, while 9% – around 270,000 people – have experienced panic or anxiety attacks or even suicidal thoughts because of the virus.

One in five (20%) of those who have not left the house at all since the start of lockdown – around 90,000 people in the UK – say they will not feel safe enough to do so until a vaccine or effective treatment is widely available, irrespective of changes to recent government shielding guidance.

The study involved 2,202 adults with a previous cancer diagnosis, and was undertaken between June 2 and June 15.

The findings suggest that one in seven (14%) has experienced a decline in their physical health during lockdown, including sleep problems (10%), fatigue or extreme tiredness (9%), or pain (5%).

Almost half of people with cancer in the UK (49%) have not taken any outdoor exercise at all, the results suggested.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “For many people it is more frightening to be diagnosed with cancer now than during any other time in recent history.

“On top of the impact of a cancer diagnosis, patients now feel lost in lockdown.

“They are having to contend with the two potentially deadly Cs all at once, including uncertainty around treatment, shielding restrictions and isolation from loved ones, as well as concerns about their increased risk of contracting the virus.

“We’re doing everything we can to be there for people with cancer and want to encourage anyone who is struggling with the emotional and physical impacts of lockdown to get in touch with the Macmillan support line.

“But, sadly, we can only make sure that no-one faces cancer alone with the public’s support.

“We want to make sure cancer doesn’t become the forgotten ‘C’ during this pandemic – please donate to Macmillan today.”

Macmillan’s Telephone Buddies scheme matches volunteers with cancer patients so they can arrange to have regular chats with someone about what they’re going through.

It has also launched an emergency fundraising appeal in a bid to ensure it can continue to fund services and provide cancer care and support now and in the future.