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Cancer patients under pressure to stay positive

Macmillan Cancer Support says ' Fighting talk' can leave cancer patients unable to talk about death and dying, and that many cancer patients were not having vital conversations about end-of-life preferences until it was too late

The perceived need to "fight" cancer and remain positive is having a negative effect on people living with the disease, especially those with a terminal diagnosis who are not getting the right support for the end of life.

Research by YouGov found that three-quarters (76%) of people with cancer said they had thought about the fact they may die from the disease. But Macmillan Cancer Support said its research showed there were a number of barriers preventing honest conversations about dying from taking place. It said one of the biggest barriers to introducing conversations about dying was the pressure to stay positive, even when patients received a terminal diagnosis.

Of the people surveyed who had spoken to their healthcare team about dying, only 19% said the conversations were initiated by a health or social care professional. Furthermore, a quarter of people with cancer said they had not shared their thoughts about death and dying with anyone due to the pressure to see themselves as a "fighter". More than one in four (28%) said they found it difficult to talk honestly about their feelings around the disease, and a similar number (28%) said they felt guilty if they could not remain positive.

Macmillan said this gulf in communication meant many cancer patients were not having vital conversations about end-of-life preferences until it was too late, and thousands of people were unnecessarily dying in hospital against their wishes.

Read Macmillan Cancer Care findings