Half a million people with cancer ‘afraid to leave the house’ due to coronavirus

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

Macmillan Cancer Support conducted a study of 2,202 adults with a previous cancer diagnosis between 2 June and 15 June.

Research from the charity suggests that 19 per cent of cancer patients in the UK – around 570,000 people – have scarcely left their homes because they are too afraid to do so, while nine per cent – around 270,000 people – have experienced anxiety attacks or even suicidal thoughts because of the virus.

Furthermore, one in five (20 per cent) 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 findings also suggest that one in seven (14 per cent) has experienced a decline in their physical health during lockdown, including sleep problems (10 per cent), fatigue or extreme tiredness (nine per cent), or pain (five per cent).

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

As a result of the findings, the charity is warning of the impact the virus is having on the physical and mental health of people facing both cancer and Covid-19 at the same time.

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

“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.”

Thomas explained that the charity is doing “everything we can” to provide support for people with cancer and wants to encourage anyone struggling with the emotional and physical impacts of lockdown to get in touch.

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.

The charity 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.

According to Cancer Research UK, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the diagnosis, treatment and care of millions of cancer patients.

The charity states that an estimated 2.1 million patients are awaiting screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer, while 290,000 have missed out on referrals to confirm or rule out the presence of tumours.

The outbreak has also forced the postponement of surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy for at least 21,600 patients, Cancer Research UK added.

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