Secondary breast cancer occurs when cancer cells from the breast have spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain. This may also be referred to as metastatic breast cancer, metastases, advanced breast cancer, secondary tumours, secondaries or stage 4 breast cancer.
There can be hidden financial costs of living with secondary breast cancer but there are several benefits and grants you may be able to apply for.
If you’re working and become sick you’ll probably be entitled to Statutory sick pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks. As part of your contract, your employer may also be required to pay you your normal salary for a number of weeks or months. You should check your contract or talk to your human resources (HR) department. If you’re no longer entitled to SSP or don't have a job, you can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
There are other allowances that can help with some of the extra costs of care or help with costs incurred from your illness or treatment.
The Disability Living Allowance for adults under 65 years of age has been replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Attendance Allowance (AA) applies to those over 65 years old).
For more information on this, see the ‘How to Claim’ section under the relevant allowance on the Gov.uk website. You can also use their benefits calculators to get an estimate of what benefits and tax credits you could get.
Many people with secondary breast cancer are entitled to PIP or AA and it can help them manage day to day with symptoms such as pain and fatigue.
A mobility payment can also be paid as part of PIP.
Depending on their circumstances your carer may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance if you have substantial caring needs. Contact a benefits adviser for further information.
Some people diagnosed with secondary breast cancer may be able to claim PIP and AA under special rules so that the claim is fast tracked and may be paid at a higher rate. Special rules apply when a doctor has said there is a possibility that a person may not live for longer than six months. Claiming under the rules requires your doctor to complete a DS1500 form and means you will not need to meet the usual conditions for getting PIP or AA or go to a face-to-face consultation.
Although no one can accurately predict the progress of the disease, people with secondary breast cancer are often encouraged to claim under these special rules to help their financial security. Claims are not affected for those who live longer than this.
Some people decide to stop work when they find out they have secondary breast cancer, others like the routine and normality of work. However, some people aren’t able to work due to their symptoms or the effects of treatment. Secondary breast cancer is a recognised disability so you have the right to ask your employer to make adjustments for you. For example, flexible working including working shorter days or part time. Talking to your employer about your options regarding certain benefits, such as pensions, life insurance, personal critical illness or mortgage protection may also help with your decisions about changes to your working pattern.
You may find it useful to discuss your options with an independent financial adviser.
Financial benefits and grants are there to make your life easier, and although they may not be your top priority, apply as soon as you feel able, even if you’re not sure you are eligible.
Who to ask
Macmillan Cancer Support produces a booklet called Help with the cost of cancer. This outlines the benefits and financial help available to people affected by cancer. They also provide welfare rights advisers who can help with questions about finances and benefits. They can tell you what local government assistance and benefits are available to you, your family and carers and can also help you fill out benefit claim forms.
To order a free copy of the publication or speak to an experienced welfare rights adviser, you can call Macmillan free on 0808 808 00 00 or contact your local cancer information centre.
Your local Citizens Advice (CA) is also a good place to go for guidance.
Nurses involved in your care can also often help with financial information and form filling. A medical social worker will know what grants or other services may be available for you, and may help with the paperwork. To speak to a medical social worker, ring your hospital and ask for the social work department. If you’re attending a hospice there are usually social workers or benefits advisers who you can speak to.