One in four of the 325,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients in the UK - an estimated 70,000 patients each year - lack support from family and friends during their treatment and recovery, according to new research published by Macmillan Cancer Support.
An estimated 20,000 people each year will receive no help whatsoever, facing cancer completely alone.
Isolation makes it harder for cancer patients to self-manage their medical care. Over one in ten (11%) have missed appointments to hospital or their GP, while one in six (18%) have been unable to pick up prescriptions for their medication.
The Facing the Fight Alone report - which looks at the number, profile and experiences of isolated people living with cancer - found more than half (53 per cent) of health professionals have had patients opt not to have treatment at all due to a lack of support at home from family and friends3. Nine in ten (89 per cent) health professionals felt that a lack of support at home leads to a poorer quality of life for patients, whilst over half felt that it can lead to poorer treatment decisions (54 per cent) and a shorter life expectancy (56 per cent).
For some, isolation seems to be a direct result of their cancer diagnosis. Over one in six (18 per cent) have lost touch with family or friends because of their diagnosis.
Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: 'This research shows that isolation can have a truly shattering impact on people living with cancer. Patients are going hungry, missing medical appointments and even deciding to reject treatment altogether which could be putting their lives at risk - all because of a lack of support.
'But these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. As the number of people living with cancer is set to double from two to four million by 2030, isolation will become an increasing problem and we need to address this now. That's why we are launching a new campaign to help tackle this crisis and to ensure that in future, no-one faces cancer alone.'