Pickering fears ‘frightening’ rise  in cancer among young people

HERE TO HELP: (L-R) Pickering’s  Gaynor Ratcliffe and Polly Taylor with Miles Scott

Pickering fears ‘frightening’ rise in cancer among young people

by Andy Tong | 14th March 2019

ONE of the founders of the Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre is warning of an increase of cancer in young adults and believes it is caused by stress from a very early age.

Polly Taylor said that over the last two years she has seen an alarming rise in the number of people aged 25 to 40 coming to see them in Tunbridge Wells, and is calling on GPs to refer more young people for tests. 

And this week the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells [MTW] NHS Trust told the Times that there has been a rise in the number of people in the age group 25 to 40 being diagnosed with cancer.

“Cancer appears, from our point of view, to be multiplying like there’s no tomorrow,” said Mrs Taylor.

She added: “We lost two of our young people just before Christmas. They were being treated for irritable bowel syndrome because of their age and by the time they were diagnosed with bowel cancer it was too late. 

“There needs to be more awareness and it cannot be assumed that just because someone is young, they do not have cancer. Cancer has become the Brexit of the human body and it is heart-breaking.”

'It’s the way of life now, there’s nothing but stress in children’s lives today almost starting from the minute they’re born'

The biggest cause of the increase that she can identify is the pressure that children are being placed under in modern society from a very early age.

“It’s the way of life now, there’s nothing but stress in children’s lives today almost starting from the minute they’re born,” she told the Times. “They’re not allowed to be children, but unfortunately that’s the way society seems to have gone.”

Pickering are now working with the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells [MTW] NHS Trust to see how they can support them with cancer care. According to last year’s data supplied by BBC Research MTW is ranked 129 out of 131 NHS trusts for starting cancer treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral.

A spokesperson for MTW confirmed the collaboration, saying: “We are working more closely with our partners in the voluntary sector, such as the Pickering Centre, to help us continually improve the services we offer patients with cancer as well as provide opportunities that support their health and wellbeing, and emotional care.”

MTW confirmed that its hospitals have seen an increase in people aged 25 to 40 years being diagnosed with cancer.

It said: “This could be because more people are aware of the symptoms of cancer and get checked out early by their GP.

'Lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and drinking, could be playing a part in this increase'

“Or it could be that certain lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and drinking more than the recommended levels, are playing a part in this increase.”

MTW’s chief executive, Miles Scott, paid Pickering a visit in Monson Road to see the support that they provide to around 3,000 people a year and all free of charge.

“Miles Scott really wants to improve cancer care in the NHS and we certainly hope to be able to support him. We work very closely with the emotional side with our visitors and the comments that they make to us, we then pass on to the NHS.

“We are also very aware of the pressures that GPs, hospitals and schools are under by having to tick boxes but unfortunately the patient is being neglected because of this and we see this first-hand when they visit us at the Centre.”

Polly Taylor explained: “We are being made aware by the patients of the way they feel let down e.g. the time it takes to get an appointment and the manner in which they are spoken to.

"They feel they are being let down by the hospitals and GPs and we are not just talking locally but also in London and the South East.”

Mrs Taylor believes that the charity’s work is invaluable in looking after the ‘emotional tumour’ as she calls it. 

“It’s all about the person and we work from the heart which makes a big difference to people. The holistic approach works hand in hand with conventional treatments.

“I’m saddened by boxes having to be ticked and the pressure it is putting on parents, schools and especially the children.  We are able to support these children caught up in this turmoil by providing never-ending time, love and hugs.”

Volunteers join forces to help people

Polly Taylor’s comments came after Pickering were invited to Maidstone Hospital’s Oncology Unit last month for World Cancer Day, along with several other cancer charities.

The event was called ‘Here to Help’ and volunteers spent time with patients while they were waiting for treatment so they could see the help and support that is out there for them.

They aim to team up with YouCan Youth Cancer Support, which helps people in the south-east up to the age of 35, and Harmony Therapy Trust in Sheerness, which offers emotional wellbeing resources. 

“It was really brilliant meeting up with them,” said Mrs Taylor. “We are going to work together. They can provide the support that we are unable to. Now that Pickering is so busy, it is nice to know we have two charities we can work with to provide 100 per cent support for youngsters which is what we aim to do.” 

What is Pickering…

The Centre is a totally self-funding registered charity that aims to help and support anyone affected by cancer from diagnosis onwards, be they patients, their partners, children, friends or carers.

It offers a safe, relaxing, friendly environment where mutual support and information can be found, without the pressure of appointments or time restraints.

Pickering also provides a wide range of complementary therapies all  available free of charge.

The Centre helps around 3,000 people e a year and is run entirely by volunteers who have all been affected by cancer at some point in their lives.

The Centre is open: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, 10am - 3pm. To find out more visit: pickeringcancercentre.org.uk or call them on:  01892 511880

Access times 'not good enough'

MTW chief executive Miles Scott told the Timeslast year how the Trust intended to improve its cancer diagnosis:

“Across all of cancer GPs have been asked to reduce the level of 'suspicion' - they used to be told 'send them in if they have a five per cent chance'. Now it is three per cent.

“We are the cancer centre for Kent. We attract a lot of referrals. Over the past year we have attracted more referrals at a greater rate.

“We need to find more efficient ways of finding the capacity. We are making lots of changes to the way we manage patients. We will also invest in capacity in certain areas. 

“If there is one thing in the short term we are looking to improve it is our cancer access times. Clinical outcomes are really good but our access times are not good enough.”

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