‘I have one less worry in my cancer treatment’ – BBC News

  • By Charlie Jones
  • BBC News, Suffolk

image source, Steven Marland

Caption,

Steven Marsland, pictured with his family, said he felt anxious about possibly missing the medication that was keeping him alive

Cancer patients say they are relieved to be able to continue taking life-saving drugs after the policy change.

Doctors are not allowed to automatically prescribe two bowel cancer drugs on the NHS in England if the patient has taken a break from them.

Steven Marsland, 38, of Brantham, Suffolk, said the decision meant he was now “one less thing to worry about”.

The policy affects the drugs cetuximab and panitumumab.

image source, Steven Marland

Caption,

Mr Marsland has gone through 93 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiotherapy since his diagnosis in 2018

Before the rules changed, if a patient took a treatment break of more than six weeks, they had to reapply for NHS funding, with no guarantee that it would be approved.

Mr Marsland, who has incurable cancer, needed to stop his treatment for a hernia operation last year. He has had to take shorter breaks because of the policy and is concerned he may have to fund cetuximab himself in the future.

The father of two, who works as lead technologist for BT, has undergone 93 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiotherapy since his diagnosis in 2018.

image source, Steven Marland

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Mr Marsland, pictured with his wife Emma,​​is campaigning for policy change with Colon Cancer UK charity

“This decision means I no longer have to live with the anxiety of missing my medication,” she said.

“It’s going to open up a lot of options for people for skin recovery breaks, vacations and minor surgeries. I don’t have to cover up illness for fear of the rug being pulled out.”

image source, Jane Ashford

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Jane Ashford says she lives in constant fear that her medication will be taken away

Jane Ashford, from Bristol, described the development as “amazing”, saying she lived in “constant fear” that her medication would be taken off.

The 50-year-old woman, who is now recovering from bowel cancer, said her oncologist really wanted her to rest “because drug toxicity is causing serious health problems” but that she had “no choice but to continue without rest under arbitrary rules”.

“I had to leave my job as an NHS primary care specialist because of the physical, emotional and psychological side effects,” she said.

The rule change came too late for some patients. Roy Davison, father of three to Preston, was told he would not be able to return to panitumumab on the NHS after taking a break for liver surgery.

image source, Carolyn Davison

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Roy Davison, pictured with his two daughters, would do anything for anyone and has a big heart, his family says

The engineer, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2014, is making good progress and the drug has shrunk the tumor enough to make it operable, said his wife Carolyn.

“Then the doctors told us the rules had changed and suddenly the drug was taken away. It felt so wrong and cruel.

“It felt like a prescription was written but she was only allowed to have half of it. We sought a second opinion from the oncologists who all said they would like to return her to panitumumab if they could,” she said.

They wrote to their lawmakers and the drug company explaining the situation, but Mr Davison was forced on another drug and his cancer spread. He died aged 59 in 2017.

Genevieve Edwards, chief executive at Bowel Cancer UK, who has spent five years campaigning on the issue, said: “Patients with advanced colon cancer have few treatment options and these drugs are often their only lifesaver.

“This NHS England decision will bring new hope to patients with advanced bowel cancer for a better quality of life, more time to spend with loved ones and, for some, even a chance for a full recovery.”

NHS England has been contacted for comment.

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