People living with cancer may have extra costs to meet because of their illness. This can be difficult for people on a low income, or who have to give up work. Some women we spoke to lost income through missing work due to their cancer.
Employed people who cannot work through illness are entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. Many women we spoke to received their full salary for part or all or their sick leave; some went on half pay after a certain time. One felt guilty about being paid while off sick. In addition to sick pay, another received payments from critical illness and income protection insurance policies that she had.
Obtained sick pay from her employer and payments from critical illness and income protection…
Two women had moved house and taken out a bigger mortgage shortly before they became ill. One regretted not having taken out critical illness insurance when it was offered with the new mortgage. The other used her savings to pay the mortgage and felt pressured to return to work after treatment to restore her income. However, she had to leave after her cancer returned. She lost her salary, private health insurance, company car, and had to move to a smaller house and claim state benefits. Self-employed women who had no income protection insurance lost all their income if they could not work.
While off sick paid for a new mortgage from savings, then left work when her cancer returned,…
Some women retired early as a result of their illness and received an occupational pension. One retired to the UK from a job abroad but her husband remained abroad to maintain his income to support her and their children (see ‘Lifestyle and work changes’). Running two households was costly so they exchanged their UK house for a smaller one.
Retired early on health grounds and received an occupational pension.
Some women with small children had greater financial difficulties because their husbands also lost income by taking a break from work to care for them. One woman lost her job (as a shop worker) when she went off sick because she had not been employed long enough for it to be kept open. Another had just finished a short-term contract job before she became ill so had no income and didn’t know if she could claim sick pay. A few had found it difficult to get a new job because of their medical history.
Lost her job when she went off sick: her employer would not keep it open for her.
A woman with children to support became bankrupt after ending her marriage and had to claim state benefits. She took a part-time job but only worked a few hours per week to remain eligible for benefits. She had also received a grant from Macmillan Cancer Support.
Became bankrupt following marital breakdown, worked the maximum hours per week allowed while…
Women commonly found out about their entitlement to state benefits from friends, social workers or Macmillan nurses, who often helped with the application forms. People who are terminally ill can apply for these benefits under special rules which mean their claim will be dealt with quickly and they may receive a higher rate of benefit. Applying for benefits upset one woman because it brought home to her the things she could no longer do. Others, who were receiving higher rates of benefits discovered they were entitled to a disabled parking permit, or exemption from road tax.
A social worker helped her to apply for Incapacity Benefit.
Describes what you are asked when applying for Disability Living Allowance; a Macmillan nurse…
The names and types of state benefits given has changed since these interviews. For more information on the latest benefits see GOV.UK.
Some women talked about costs incurred because of their illness, such as travelling to hospital appointments and parking. Patients on low incomes can obtain help with costs of travel to receive NHS treatment by asking at the hospital for refund form. Prescription charges for cancer patients in England have since been abolished; there are no prescription charges in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A few women chose to pay for wigs because they didn’t like those offered by the NHS or because they had treatment privately. One woman bought a wheelchair to get about when she was very ill. Some paid for complementary therapies (see ‘Complementary approaches’). Another paid for domestic help and found that buying ready-made meals was expensive.
Talks about the costs of travelling to London for hospital appointments and the pros and cons of…
Not all insurance companies will insure people who have had cancer; women who wanted to travel sometimes found it difficult to get insurance or had to pay higher premiums or more towards the cost of treatment. One woman obtained travel insurance from her private health insurers. Another didn’t tell her insurers about her cancer before travelling. One woman could not get life insurance with her new mortgage.