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Most people do not fear death at cancer diagnosis

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by Cancer Research UK | News

23 December 2015

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Most people in Great Britain do not fear that a cancer diagnosis would end in death according to a new survey* commissioned by Cancer Research UK.

Of those who had been diagnosed with cancer only a third (30 per cent) said fear of death was one of the emotions they felt when they were given the news.

Similarly, just 29 per cent of those who knew someone diagnosed with cancer mentioned fear of death while 68 per cent cited sadness and 52 per cent shock at the news.

For cancer patients, 39 per cent cited determination as one of the emotions they felt on getting a diagnosis.

Most Brits – around 70 per cent – agreed that scientific research is the only way that new treatments and methods will be developed to prevent (70 per cent), diagnose (69 per cent), treat (71 per cent) or cure (73 per cent) cancer.

Cancer Research UK is highlighting the personal impact of cancer in its latest campaign**. A series of short 60 and 30 second films which show the experience of patients going through treatment or being told test results will be broadcast over the coming weeks.

The groundbreaking “Right Now” campaign recorded patients, their families, friends and the dedicated hospital staff and researchers at Southampton, Leeds and London’s St Bart’s.

Cancer Research UK hopes the campaign will highlight that cancer continues to have an emotional and physical impact, and that research is happening right now to develop better treatments and improve survival for those people affected by the disease.

Only six per cent of people correctly knew that one in two people in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their life. Most people (83 per cent) thought this figure was less common than one in two.

Angie Ayres, 52, from Southampton, features in one of the films and was diagnosed with a fast-growing stage 4 breast cancer after a routine mammogram earlier this year. A lumpectomy was followed by further surgery including removal of lymph nodes. After having chemotherapy Angie is now having radiotherapy, with her last session planned for Christmas Eve.

Angie’s Dad died of cancer in November 2013 and she decided to move back to Southampton to help look after her Mum.

Angie said: “From the day I was diagnosed to going into theatre it was all so quick, I didn’t have time to process things – I just got on with it. My first thought was ‘what’s the plan of action?’ Some people go into the depths of despair but because of my dad I got angry. I visualised a pair of boxing gloves and thought ‘I’m going to fight this’. I decided cancer wasn’t going to get me.

Angie Ayers selfie for Right Now campaign launch

“I started radiotherapy at the beginning of December and that’s a completely new experience. My last radiotherapy session is on Christmas Eve – it’s the best Christmas present I could have. I’ll always be grateful to my GP’s surgery for sending me the mammogram letter and for all the treatment and support I’ve received from the NHS. Being part of this campaign has also made me aware and thankful for the research that is going on, right now, to develop new and better treatment.”

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head cancer information nurse, said: “It’s reassuring to see that most people don’t list fear of death as a reaction to cancer. A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, but more than ever before research has led to better treatments and more patients surviving. In the future we know that one in two will be diagnosed with cancer but more people than ever are also surviving the disease.

“Cancer Research UK is working every day to keep improving the outlook for patients. Better awareness of signs and symptoms, improved screening and diagnostic tests, and more effective treatments will help us achieve our goal of helping three in four people survive cancer for at least 10 years, rising from two in four. Our latest campaign is a powerful reminder of why we need to do this. Right now.”


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.