Over a million people in the UK are currently caring for someone with cancer at any one time. This statistic may be shocking and it is still increasing, although some of the figures are more positive. The proportion of people who survive cancer is also gradually increasing, and we have millions more people in the country right now who have survived the disease. However, the point where these groups of people interact is still somewhat blurred with uncertainty, and despite our improving methods for battling cancer, many people still don’t have access to the help they need, whether they are patients or carers.
A major factor involved with this problem is that the social side of cancer care is so often overlooked. From the moment someone is diagnosed, their needs quickly become complex and this goes far beyond immediate medical needs. Someone coping with a diagnosis will mostly likely need a lot of emotional support, but identifying this need (and offering a solution if there is not a simple one to hand) may not be easy for a professional, let alone friends and family members who don’t even consider themselves carers.
Further down the line, cancer survivors may have many long term medical and psychological consequences resulting from their treatment. After surgery or short term therapy has ended, many people are left alone or without enough support as they continue their journey to recover. Many of these people end up missing doctors’ appointments and are unable to get hold of their prescribed medication, which is an unacceptable failure. The problem here is finding a way to stretch the NHS and other healthcare systems so they are able to help more, which is very difficult.
Ultimately, the responsibility must be shared. It is up to everyone who represents a point of contact for someone with cancer to do all they can to assess the situation and find more ways they might be able to help. Assuming someone is OK on their own can lead to people feeling abandoned by professionals who unfortunately have no idea about their personal situation. In care homes especially, staff should be fully trained and aware of the kinds of problems facing cancer patients and survivors so they can so their best to offer social care alongside their other duties.