ONE in five newly diagnosed cancer patients in Scotland lacks support from family and friends during their treatment and recovery, with an estimated 1500 people facing the disease completely alone.

Over one in 10 (11%) has missed hospital or GP appointments, while one in six (18%) has been unable to pick up prescriptions for their medication. The report also found more than half (53%) of health professionals have had patients opt not to have treatment at all due to a lack of support at home from family and friends.

case study

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WHEN father-of-one Nelson McFarlane was diagnosed with tonsillar cancer in June 2011, he swapped a stressful job as a senior manager in the NHS for the lonely experience of a cancer patient.

Mr McFarlane, who lives with his wife and 15-year-old son in the west end of Glasgow, found the treatment tough. It left him housebound for months but he says it was losing contact with people from his old life that was one of the most difficult things to cope with.

The 53-year-old said: "I felt isolated. My wife had some time off when I was first diagnosed but she obviously had to go back to work.

"I found the internet was a lifeline. It allowed me to feel as though I was still part of the world. I'm not sure what I would have done without it."

He said he was surprised by how people – even those he considered close friends – reacted. "There were people I thought of as good friends who just disappeared. Relationships withered on the vine. You definitely find out who your real friends are.

"Maybe they just didn't know what to say to me or they were embarrassed? It's important people understand how to speak to people who have been told they have cancer."