Living with and beyond cancer – what does this mean?

Anyone who has had a diagnosis of cancer is someone who is living with or beyond their cancer. This could be someone who has completed their treatment or having ongoing treatment for their cancer.

More people than ever before are living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis. The impact of cancer does not suddenly stop when the treatment is over.  You are now twice as likely to survive for at least 10 years after a cancer diagnosis than you were 40 years ago. This is clearly good news.

But living longer doesn’t always mean living well. Following a cancer diagnosis, there are on-going needs for the growing number of people who have finished treatment but are still struggling to cope with the impact of cancer on their lives.

Currently there are two million people living with or beyond cancer in the UK. This figure is set to rise to four million by 2030.

What problems might a person living with and beyond cancer face?

People who have finished treatment may experience difficulties returning to normal life. They may:

  • struggle emotionally, needing to adjust to changes treatment has made to their body
  • have to cope with short-term and long-term side effects of their cancer or its treatment
  • have to live with the knowledge that their cancer cannot be cured, even though they feel healthy
  • have difficulties accessing information about their condition or any after effects they may experience
  • struggle financially as the household income decreases
  • experience problems returning to the workplace

Current models of care are not sustainable and do not serve the patient or their family in the best possible way.  We need to make sure that we don’t just help more people to live following a cancer diagnosis, but to live well

The Recovery Package was recognised in the NHS England Five Year Forward View and the Cancer Taskforce Strategy which outlines a commitment to ensuring that ‘every person with cancer has access to the elements of the Recovery Package by 2020’. The roll out of these interventions are better supporting and improving the quality of life of people living with and beyond cancer.

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out that "By 2021, where appropriate every person diagnosed with cancer will have access to personalised care, including needs assessment, a care plan and health and wellbeing information and support.

Cancer Personalised Care has four main interventions. Holistic Needs Assessment and Care Planning, Treatment Summary, Cancer Care Review, and Health and Wellbeing Events. These elements form part of an overall support and self-management package for people affected by cancer – physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle, managing consequences of treatment, and information, financial and work support.

Macmillan have also produced a publication about making cancer care in the NHS more personal.

These programmes of work are delivered in collaboration with primary, secondary, tertiary, community and voluntary sector services. They will provide an holistic approach to supporting patients and their families affected by cancer.

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