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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 00:33 GMT


Inequalities in cancer support services

People with cancer receive unequal access to support

Cancer patients in northern England are not receiving the same information and support as those in the south, according to a new survey.

Researcher by the CancerBACUP charity found that people in the north, the unemployed and working class and men were less likely to access cancer information services than people in the south, white collar workers and women.

They believe more local services need to be set up to deal with the problem.

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer and funded by the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC), analysed almost 17,000 callers to the CancerBACUP service between April 1995 and March 1996.

This is one of the main national services offering telephone counselling and information to people affected by cancer.

Local support

The findings show that callers do not reflect the way cancer affects the general population.

For example, calls from northern England were almost a third less than would have been expected given cancer prevalence in the region.

And only 22% of calls were from men, even though cancer affects men and women equally.

The researchers believe this could be because men and women cope differently with crises, with women preferring to use a wide network of support, while men tend to confide in just one person.

They found there were significantly fewer calls from manual workers than white collar workers and calls from the unemployed were almost three times less than expected.

They believe the differences may be due to lack of awareness about the services and a preference for local support.

CancerBACUP is based in London.

Media coverage

The survey also showed more calls for specific types of cancer, such as breast, ovarian and testicular cancer, than for others such as lung, stomach and bladder cancer.

[ image: A high media profile for breast cancer may have provoked more calls]
A high media profile for breast cancer may have provoked more calls
They thought this could be due to higher levels of media reports of some cancers.

CancerBACUP and the CRC says health providers should offer cancer information and support on a local basis to ensure services are more evenly distributed.

Jean Mossman, chief executive of CancerBACUP, said: "The analysis of calls to CancerBACUP shows the scale of the 'information gap' that needs to be plugged for people with cancer and their carers.

"Doctors and hospitals must allocate the resources to guide patients to where they can find more help and advice."

She added: "There needs to be a guarantee that everyone affected by cancer - no matter what their background, age, what their cancer or where they live - is told about the help and support that is available to them."

CancerBACUP is looking at setting up its own more local centres of information.

It already offers face-to-face counselling in Glasgow and London and has just opened its first information centre at Nottingham City Hospital.

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