Research by Macmillan Cancer Support shows that most patients have to fork out an average of £570 a month as a result of their condition.
“This is comparable to the monthly cost of a mortgage,” says Craig Syme, an adviser at Macmillan’s Financial Guidance Service.
“Having cancer can mean your finances take a big hit. Living costs are already very high and yet those affected are having to contend with a range of extra charges, such as travel costs to and from hospital, car parking costs, higher heating bills and even the cost of buying new clothes if their weight changes.”
While many patients are affected by increased expenditure, some also suffer due to loss of income because they have to go part-time, or give up work to undergo treatment.
According to Macmillan, one in three lose as much as £860 a month in earnings because they are unable to work, or have to cut down their hours.
With the number of people with cancer set to double to 4 million by 2030, these issues are becoming ever more prominent.
High-profile events, such as Channel 4’s recent comedy night fundraiser, Stand Up To Cancer co-hosted by Davina McCall, right, are helping to raise awareness of this illness across the UK. Here we take a look at how to cope with the cost.
TRAVEL AND PARKING COSTS
For many patients, having cancer means lengthy treatment and multiple hospital visits.
Macmillan found that the cost of travel to and from appointments averages about £170 a month while parking costs add about £37 a month.
Cancer patients on a low income or who are on some benefits might be entitled to have their travel costs reimbursed, so ask your hospital about this. Also check the hospital’s policy on parking, as it might be free for cancer patients.
In addition, find out if there are local voluntary organisations running schemes where drivers give people lifts to hospital and other destinations.
MANAGING EXTRA ENERGY BILLS
Many cancer patients face increased energy bills as treatments such as chemotherapy may leave them feeling the cold more.
Macmillan found that one in three spend an extra £24 a month or more.
If you are worried about energy bills, the key is not to suffer in silence.
First off, check with your energy provider, as all suppliers have to offer their most vulnerable customers cheaper “social tariffs”.
Another simple way to keep gas and electricity bills down is by being more energy efficient.
MAKE USE OF GRANTS
If you have cancer and are struggling financially, there may be additional support available to you from some of the grant-giving charities.
Macmillan, for example, offers one-off grants that can be used by those who are in financial difficulty to cover a wide range of practical needs, including transport, heating and extra clothing. These grants are usually about £250, and can even be used for a much-needed break.
CLAIM ALL YOUR BENEFITS
If you have been affected by cancer and are too ill to work, you may be entitled to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Carers Allowance (CA) is available to those unable to work due to caring for someone affected by cancer.
The welfare system is undergoing considerable change as a result of the Welfare Reform Act, which has brought big changes to benefits, such as housing benefit and council tax.
Gail Bardsley, a benefits adviser at Macmillan, said: “All of this means it can be very confusing trying to find out what you can claim.
“For example, Personal Independence Payment, which is replacing the Disability Living Allowance, can be very hard to claim.
“We can help you find out what sort of benefits you are entitled to. We can also help you fill in the forms.”
Macmillan offers benefits and financial guidance to people who are affected by cancer and also has an energy team that can advise on the support available with your fuel and water costs.