Woman, 70, unable to retire due to soaring costs of living with cancer

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian's Wesley Smith

A medical secretary from Oxfordshire has told ITV News Meridian how the high costs she incurred during treatment means she's been unable to retire.

70-year-old Mandy Brewerton says the worry has taken its toll on her mental health.

A new survey from the support charity, Maggie's, has found that 83% of people with cancer say unexpected expenses since their diagnosis are impacting their mental health, with more than a third (36%) feeling the impact strongly. 

Additionally, 78% of people are struggling to pay bills because of the unexpected costs that come with a diagnosis, with over a quarter (28%) feeling the impact strongly.

Maggie's has a cancer centre based at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford Credit: ITV News Meridian

The hidden costs of cancer include extra travel to and from medical appointments, the cost of parking near hospitals, bigger heating bills as people recover at home, a change in diet and additional toiletries to help deal with the side effects of treatment.

Mandy from East Hanney, near Wantage, was diagnosed in 2019 when her breast surgeon told her the news that would change her life.

She said: "(The cancer nurse) told me, 'You do realise, Amanda, that it's going to be a year of treatment?' I must admit, inside I was panicking, I was thinking, how am I going to manage?

"I only get two months sick pay from work, so it did bring a lot of stress as well as the stress of the diagnosis."

  • Mandy Brewerton says the financial worry has taken its toll on her mental health

The survey, carried out by OnePoll on behalf of Maggie's, polled 250 people living with cancer.

It highlights the soaring costs of living with cancer and the damage to mental health it can cause.  

Maggie's Chief Executive Dame, Laura Lee, said: "The soaring cost of living with cancer is shocking enough, but to hear how badly it is impacting mental health makes it even worse.

"First there is the impact of a diagnosis, then the huge unexpected additional costs of cancer which can be around £900 a month.

Mother with incurable breast cancer writes books to help children with sick parents >

Teacher feels ‘unbelievably lucky’ after brother saved her life with transplant >

"That then takes a toll on mental health leading to increased anxiety and depression.

"These hidden costs have always been there, but they are compounded by the drop in income that usually comes with a diagnosis and the current cost of living crisis.

"Coping with the cost of cancer is far harder today and the government must address that.

"It is unthinkable that someone worrying about cancer is also worrying about putting the heating on, getting to their hospital appointment or buying food."