18% Rise In Cancer Patients

6 January 2015, 07:08 | Updated: 6 January 2015, 07:11

The number of people with cancer in Scotland has risen by 18% in five years, according to new figures.

Macmillan Cancer Support estimates that 220,000 people living in Scotland have been diagnosed with cancer - a record high and an increase of around 33,000 since 2010.

It is calling for a "complete transformation'' of the way people are supported after their treatment ends to cope with the long-term impacts cancer can often have, which can range from physical side effects like extreme fatigue to psychological problems.

Macmillan said that around one in four people across the UK who has been diagnosed with cancer face poor health or disability after treatment, while many also face significant emotional, financial and practical problems.

Janice Preson, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: "With the number of people living with cancer increasing each year, the seriousness of the challenge facing us cannot be overstated.

"The current NHS system was not set up to deal with the needs of such a huge number of people who have survived cancer but who often continue to require considerable support.

"Without a complete transformation in how people are supported after their treatment ends, there is no way patients will get the support they desperately need, whether that's help to cope at home, financial help or even emotional support.

"It's vital the Scottish Government, NHS and Social Care Services use the forthcoming integration of health and social care to recognise the scale of the challenge and commit to making the big changes needed to meet it.''

The increase in people living with cancer is said to be largely due to improvements in survival and detection, and a growing and ageing population.

Macmillan is already working with the Scottish Government, NHS and local authorities to fund the £5 million Transforming Care After Treatment programme.

Launched in June 2013, the programme is funding pilot projects throughout the NHS and in local authorities to test better ways of supporting cancer patients after treatment ends.

The charity say lessons learned from this programme must be used to transform how patients are supported throughout Scotland.

Alan Clarke, 48, a father-of-two, agrees that change is needed.

The former advertising executive, who now works in the music industry, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2008.

Mr Clarke, from Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire, underwent a 12-hour operation as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

While the treatment was essential to get rid of the cancer, the illness and treatment have had a huge long-term impact on him.

He said: "It's only once treatment finishes and one is back living a 'normal' life that just how not normal things will ever be again strikes home.

"For me that impacted on my work as I could no longer do my old job. It impacted on me emotionally, leaving me dealing with many mental gremlins.

"It also impacted on my everyday communication as the chemo affected my hearing, and the surgery and radiotherapy affected my speech.

"People who've been through cancer treatment see professionals at prescribed times but issues don't crop up on a prescribed schedule so one is left to either just get on with things or to impose on the medical people's busy schedules. There needs to be a more flexible and dynamic approach.''

Scottish Labour's shadow health spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: "These are hugely concerning figures and show that we need a radical public health agenda in Scotland to prevent cancer. The fact that the number of people with cancer has risen by nearly a fifth should be a wake-up call to us all.

"But immediately, the SNP need to address the unacceptable situation that over half of Scotland's health boards are missing their targets on cancer treatment.

"Before Christmas I called for an emergency strategy on cancer waiting times. I have heard nothing but silence from the SNP. For patients living with cancer the SNP Government needs to push forward the integration of health and social care.

"Scottish Labour pledged an extra 1,000 nurses for our Scottish NHS. In May we can elect a UK Labour Government that will deliver the funding for these additional nurses. These nurses will help deliver the support and care cancer patients need.''

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "The Scottish Government recognises that in addition to the physical consequences of cancer treatment, some patients are faced with practical and financial issues and emotional and psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.

"By providing the right care and support, these consequences can be minimised and overcome, which has a huge positive impact on the quality of life for people affected by cancer.

"In response to this challenge, the Scottish Government is working in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support to take forward its Transforming Care after Treatment Programme, working through NHS Scotland, the regional cancer networks and local government to ensure that those diagnosed with cancer each year in Scotland are prepared for and supported to live with these consequences of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.''