At least one in four cancer survivors suffers serious medical side-effects of their treatment such as heart failure, osteoporosis and sometimes extreme pain, according to a new report.
Women who have had breast cancer are at nearly double the risk of heart failure than those who have not had the disease, while men who have had prostate cancer are at 2.5 times greater risk of developing the brittle bones disease osteoporosis than those who have never had it.
Professor Jane Maher, chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, who produced the report, said advances in treating cancer were “a double-edged sword” because the growing numbers of people living after a diagnosis of cancer was also being accompanied by more of them having long-term consequences.
Too many cancer survivors are reluctant to discuss their ongoing side-effects, which can also include chronic fatigue, mental health issues, lymphoedema, toileting problems and difficulties with having sex, added Maher.
Ciaran Devane, Macmillan’s chief executive, who is also on the board of NHS England, said: “For far too long the NHS has underestimated the severity of this issue and is woefully unprepared to help cancer survivors now and in the future.”
All survivors should receive a “cancer recovery package” of care and support from the NHS when their treatment ends to help them cope with the consequences of the disease, he added.