‘Surge’ in men seeking emotional support over cancer

The mental and emotional toll of cancer, especially among men, has been highlighted by the charity Macmillan Cancer Support

The charity Macmillan Cancer Support has said it saw a surge in the number of calls last year from men looking for emotional support and counselling.

The revelation has highlighted the emotional and mental toll, as well as physical, that cancer can have.

The mental health problems that can commonly arise as a result of cancer are too often sidelined, a study by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has also warned.

Macmillan reported that, on average, eight men per day called the charity last year to talk about their feelings, compared to an average of six per day in 2016, an increase of around a third.

Professionals at the charity also reported men accessing emotional support through its online community and face-to-face appointments.

Dr Anthony Cunliffe, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “A cancer diagnosis can impact so many aspects of your life such as your health, finances and relationships. These changes can cause emotional strain so it’s encouraging to see more and more men talking about how they feel.”

Despite the increase in men asking for emotional support, Macmillan’s helpline still received more calls from women than men. Last year, it received an average of 175 calls from women per day, compared to 76 calls from men per day.

However, men are 22% more likely to get cancer and 45% more likely to die from cancer than women, the charity warned. Macmillan also reported that nearly half (49%) of men diagnosed with cancer experienced anxiety during treatment and 25% felt depressed when they were diagnosed.

The charity is hoping to encourage more men with cancer to ask for help, as part of its Just Say the Word campaign, with partners from across the construction, home improvement, electrical and technology sectors.

The MHF study, meanwhile, argued that one in three people with cancer will experience a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety disorders before, during or after treatment.

Mental health problems often arose at the very end of cancer treatment, when patients normally expected to “recover” but when there is also sometimes little or no emotional support to hand.

Once treatment stopped, and people left the strictly managed clinical environment, survivors described feeling as though they had “fallen off a cliff edge”, of feeling isolated and abandoned.

Of those interviewed, nearly half (49%) said they received no support or advice from health services about managing their mental health through cancer, while 66% said they were not informed at all about potential mental health problems that could arise at the end of treatment.

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