Cancer charity reveals for the first time the estimated number of parents with cancer – and raises awareness of some of the challenges they could be facing

mother living with cancer

Over a million mums in the UK are living with cancer – and of those, around 100,000 have young or teenage children – according to new estimates released by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity is releasing the figures ahead of its World’s Biggest Coffee Morning fundraising event on Friday 29 September in a bid to raise awareness of the challenges that parents with cancer could be facing and urge them to get help.

Macmillan is concerned that parents across the UK are grappling with a range of issues that include breaking the news of their cancer to their children, being apart from them while they have treatment, and needing to pay extra childcare costs.

Dany Bell, Macmillan’s Special Advisor for Treatment and Recovery, has been a registered nurse working in cancer care for nearly 30 years. She said: “Parents going through cancer are grappling with so many challenges. They are fearful about their own health and navigating treatment, but they are also worried about their children. I’ve spoken to mums who have asked for help on how to break the devastating news to their children in a way they will understand.”

Bell added: “I’ve spoken to dads who have broken down, terrified they won’t see their children grow up. The first step to getting help in these situations is to talk about it and our message is clear: Macmillan is here to listen.”

The charity’s analysis of a survey of more than 2,000 people living with cancer in the UK, conducted by YouGov, found:

  • Three in four people (77%) living with cancer in the UK are parents
  • This means an estimated 1.1 million mums and 780,000 dads in the UK are living with cancer
  • Overall, there are around 100,000 mums and 70,000 dads with cancer who have young or teenage children
  • The average age of mums with cancer who have teenagers or young children is 47 and the average age of dads is 49

The charity provides financial help for parents. For example, in the last five years, it has given out a total of £160,000 in grants to people who needed help with childcare costs

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “I know how much energy it takes to look after children so I can’t imagine how hard it must be when you’re also coping with the emotional strain of cancer or having gruelling treatment.

“We want to bring people together to catch up over a cuppa. In turn, this will raise money to help the mums and other people out there with cancer live their lives to the full.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Interested in reading more about childhood cancer and caring for children with cancer?