ALMOST one in four people living with cancer in the North-East – an estimated 20,000 people – are suffering with loneliness as a result of their cancer, according to a leading charity.

In many cases their cancer leaves them housebound and unable to feed themselves properly according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

New research conducted by Ipsos MORI reveals the impact of being lonely on the lives of people living with cancer.

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It compares the experiences of cancer patients who say they feel lonely since their diagnosis (or more lonely than they did before) with those who are not.

Lonely cancer patients are: three times more likely to drink more alcohol than they usually do; almost five times more likely to have not left the house for days and almost three times more likely to have problems sleeping.

For many, their diet also suffers. Lonely cancer patients are five times more likely to skip meals and almost eight times more likely to eat a poor diet.

Whilst the reasons for not eating properly include lack of appetite, having no food in the house and being too weak to cook, 13 per cent of lonely cancer patients who have skipped meals say it is because they cannot afford to buy enough food.

People with cancer who are most likely to feel lonely include those with cancer that is advanced or has spread or relapsed, those living alone, and those who have made a change to their working life.

Ciarán Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It’s heartbreaking to think of people struggling to eat or leave the house because they have been abandoned and left to deal with cancer alone.

“This is a growing problem which is only set to get worse as the number of people diagnosed with cancer doubles from two to four million in the next 20 years. Macmillan provides a range of services – including a Support Line and an online community – that are a lifeline to people affected by cancer.

"But we simply can’t help everyone who needs us now, let alone those who will need us in the future so we need more public donations and support.

“We also urgently need the NHS, policy makers and local authorities to wake up to this looming loneliness epidemic."

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