Being diagnosed with cancer is now one of the most common life-changing events in people’s lives. In fact, it’s more common than marriage.
That’s according to a new report from Macmillan Cancer Support which found there are over 70,000 more new cases of cancer each year in UK than new marriages.
The disease is also the most feared among the public, ahead of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, depression, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.
But the charity has urged people to change their perceptions of cancer, by emphasising that ‘life with cancer is still life’.
A Macmillan spokesperson said: “Cancer is almost always life-changing, but it isn’t always life-ending. Life with cancer is still life – you’re still a dad, a sister, a grandparent, a friend.”
Jane Ives, 49, a mum of two from Hampshire, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She said: “Getting a diagnosis of cancer was probably the single most terrifying thing that has happened to me.
“My biggest fear by far was not seeing my children fully grow up. Not being there for those milestones in their lives – their graduations, their weddings maybe.
“But here I am three years on and in a few weeks I will be at my eldest’s graduation, which will be a huge moment for both of us.
“While the fear never quite leaves you – you realise life goes on after cancer and you appreciate the here and now.”
Macmillan’s report, ‘The C-Word: How we react to cancer today’, found that for one in 10 people in the UK, cancer is their biggest fear of all, ahead of losing a loved one, their own death or even terrorism.
It also highlighted that people’s perceptions and fears around cancer can be unhelpful in supporting them to understand their choices when they are diagnosed.
One in three people (34%) said when they were first told they had cancer, they were in a daze and couldn’t take anything in.
As one in two people will get cancer at some point in their lives and more and more people are living longer after cancer, Macmillan wants the public to have a better understanding of the reality of a cancer diagnosis.
It has launched a major new advertising campaign called ‘Life with cancer’ which it hopes will remove some of the fear around diagnosis and highlight the support that is available for people living with cancer today.
A positive new approach to cancer awareness, the campaign reflects the insight that 85% of people with cancer don’t want to be defined by the disease.
Macmillan’s research shows that nine in ten (90%) people living with cancer say they are still living their lives as normally as they can.
The charity believes that being as prepared as possible, knowing what to expect during and after treatment, and being told what support is available from the moment of diagnosis can support people to continue to live their lives.
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Being told you have cancer changes your life, and it can leave people feeling as if they’ve been thrust into the unknown, bewildered and unprepared.
“But as more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer, it’s important that we are all better informed about what to expect if we do one day we receive this shocking news.
“Macmillan has supported millions from the point of diagnosis, throughout their treatment and into the future. From our experience, we believe that living well with cancer begins at diagnosis. People should come away from those first appointments feeling informed about their choices and knowing what support is available.”
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