World Cancer Day is a global initiative held every year on 4 February to raise awareness and unite people with regard to cancer, it’s prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
The theme - 'Close the Care Gap' - understands and recognises the inequities in cancer care. I have seen first hand how where you live can affect the treatment for someone with a cancer diagnosis both during and after treatment, commonly known as the 'postcode lottery.' It's not just geographical location though. Inequity in cancer care can arise from many factors, including differences in income, education, ethnicity and disability.
I signed up to the World Cancer Day '21 Days to Impact Challenge' to learn more about some of these difficulties. For the past 21 days, I have received a daily email with information about inequity in cancer care. With respect to cancer, healthcare equity means ensuring that the chances of surviving cancer, or of preventing it, are similar, or that people at least receive the right care. In short, it's about recognising someone’s needs as an individual.
This concept is something we are mindful of every day when acting for injured clients at Irwin Mitchell, particularly when we need to assess what support a client needs to help with an avoidable injury. In both a professional and personal capacity, I have seen how difficult it can be to access healthcare services before, during and after a cancer diagnosis.
There can be a number of barriers to accessing these services, some of which the campaign identifies as follows:
- Cultural differences, such as the inability to leave home for extended periods due to caregiving responsibilities;
- Gender discrimination and norms;
- Ageism including prejudice and stereotypes based on age and the underrepresentation of services for younger and older people. At Irwin Mitchell, for example, it's not uncommon for us to see younger and older clients whose health concerns have been dismissed on account of their age;
- Geographical isolation for not only accessing detection or screening services, but when receiving treatment. This also has a huge impact on finances, such as the time and cost involved in travelling to hospital appointments, and on carers, who are often friends and family;
- Disability, as the campaign identifies that disabled people are three times more likely to be denied health care and four times more likely to be treated badly in the health system.
Sadly, any one of these barriers can arise in our own communities and as the campaign says, we cannot design solutions to problems we don’t understand. Therefore, we need to start by raising awareness, by helping people live healthier lives and have better access to health and cancer services, no matter their age, background or where they live.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by cancer at our dedicated cancer claims section.