Thousands of Scots with cancer living in fear of Covid-19

Macmillan Cancer Support research finds around 10,000 people with cancer have not left the house since start of lockdown.

Thousands of Scots with cancer living in fear of Covid-19 Getty Images
Covid fears: Cancer patients.

Thousands of Scots with cancer are living in fear of Covid-19, according to research by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity said there is widespread anxiety and panic among those suffering from cancer, with many too afraid to leave their home.

Around 38,000 people with cancer in Scotland – 15% of those with the disease – have barely left the house because they are scared about catching the virus or are generally anxious about going outside, the charity said.

Its research found around 10,000 people with cancer have not left the house at all since the start of lockdown and say they will not feel safe enough to do so until there is a vaccine or zero new cases.

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An estimated 13,000 of those with cancer have experienced panic or anxiety attacks because of Covid-19, almost one in three (30%) feel stressed, anxious or depressed, and 9% of those with the disease – around 24,000 people in Scotland – have seen their mental health worsen.

‘I’ve never had anxiety but being in lockdown has made me so nervous and anxious to leave my flat, even for fresh air.’

Melissa McNaughton

The charity is now calling on the Scottish Government to “urgently deliver on its plan to restart cancer services”.

Melissa McNaughton, 31, a blood cancer patient from Glasgow, said: “I’ve never had anxiety but being in lockdown has made me so nervous and anxious to leave my flat, even for fresh air. 

“I’ve had a couple of panic attacks and I’ve felt so trapped.

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“Usually if I’m anxious or nervous about something I will go for a walk or a drive but I’ve not been able to do that. It’s been horrible.”

The research also found that around 33,000 people with cancer in Scotland have experienced sleep problems, fatigue, or pain during lockdown.

Adrienne Chaplin, a 70-year-old from Edinburgh, is currently going through treatment for breast cancer.

‘I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Like I’m not really part of the world.’

Adrienne Chaplin

She said: “I’ve found the lockdown very, very hard.

“I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Like I’m not really part of the world.

“For the first time in three months I went for a walk on my street with my son and spoke to a few neighbours from a distance.

“That’s the most exciting thing I’ve done since March. It was so lovely just having a conversation with people in real life, but I’m scared to go outside much.”

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She said she fears a second wave of the virus will mean “all of us who are shielding will be trapped at home most of the year”.

Macmillan’s head of services in Scotland Janice Preston said: “Right now, on top of the usual worries, many patients are also dealing with uncertainty around treatment, shielding restrictions and isolation from loved ones, as well as concerns about their risk of contracting the virus.

“Even in normal times, we know people with cancer often don’t get the help they need to cope with the mental and physical impact of the illness.

“The government must urgently deliver on its plan to get the cancer care system back on track, including an explicit recognition of the importance of ensuring people are still offered emotional and practical help.

“No-one should need to face cancer alone. Macmillan is here for anyone who needs us.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the health secretary has said, we know lockdown restrictions have been enormously difficult for people with cancer and their families.

“The postponement or delay of some cancer treatments, knowing the profound impact that would have on so many people, was one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with Covid-19.”

The spokesman said the Government is working with the NHS and other parties to find ways of resuming services as quickly as possible.

“Our approach is not only driven by national and local clinical priorities, but also what matters to people’s quality of life like pain clinics, dental treatment and preventative work like cancer screening,” the spokesman said.

“The majority of cancer treatments have continued throughout this pandemic, however, some patients’ treatment plans may change to minimise individual risk.

“Those that require changes will always be done on a clinical basis and will be in discussion with the patient and clinical team.”

YouGov surveyed of 2202 adults for Macmillan with research taking place between June 2-15. 

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