Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Cancer patients' needs ignored, says Macmillan charity

By Hywel Griffith
BBC Wales health correspondent

A cancer patient undergoing treatment (generic)
Macmillan is calling for individual care plans

Thousands of patients who have come through cancer are having their health needs ignored, according to a leading support charity.

Macmillan estimates that by 2030 the number of cancer survivors in Wales will have doubled to more than 200,000.

The charity claims that many of these people do not have access to the support they need.

The Welsh Assembly Government said its cancer strategy recognised the need for continued care.

But Macmillan said 84% of patients experienced a health problem in the first year after cancer treatment, and it is calling for individual care plans.

The introduction of a care plan could benefit patients like Peter Thomas from Carmarthenshire, who was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma in October 2007.

You've got to come to terms with what you've just been through - its very, very hard
Peter Thomas, cancer survivor

Doctors found an 11cm (4.3in) growth in his chest, and he underwent intense chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a stem cell transplant, which affected his immune system.

In April 2009, Mr Thomas was given the good news that he was in remission, but his initial elation was followed by very different emotions.

"Your whole life is turned upside down," Mr Thomas said.

"You've got to come to terms with what you've just been through - its very, very hard."

He still suffers from chronic fatigue and some short term memory loss - he describes life after being given the all-clear for cancer as entering a void.

He added: "To be told at the end of it - 'that's it, thanks very much', then you are on your own then - there is nobody there to try and help you with it."

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, that sense of abandonment is common among cancer survivors who have come through successful treatment.

Peter Thomas said getting over cancer is an emotional as well as physical struggle

"The provision of services across Wales is very patchy and very random," said Cath Lindley, the charity's general manager for Wales.

"What we want to see is that everyone who finishes cancer treatment gets their own care plan that sets out what their support will be going forward."

Research for Macmillan shows that at the end of 2008, there were around 108,000 people in Wales either living with cancer, or who has been through treatment.

That figure is increasing at a rate of over 3% a year, thanks to successful new treatments and earlier intervention.

The Welsh Assembly Government said its current cancer strategy recognised the need for continued care.

A spokesman added: "Our plan, Designed to Tackle Cancer in Wales, recognises the important part that education, support and ongoing care plays in the treatment and care of cancer patients.

"And our national cancer standards, published in 2005, lay out the level of care and support patients with cancer can expect to receive.

"Ultimately, it is a matter for clinicians to determine the care for their patients and to provide the appropriate treatment for their condition or conditions."

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