Nurses highlight plight of lonely cancer patients

Nurses from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust helped launch Macmillan Cancer Support’s ‘Not Alone’ Isolation Box to highlight the plight of lonely cancer patients in the UK.

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Lead cancer nurse for the Trust Diane Dunn and Jillian de Wys both entered the experiential box, installed at Paddington station, which allows people outside to see in but stops the person inside seeing out. The box aims to evoke the same feelings of loneliness and isolation many cancer patients experience after a diagnosis.

Lead cancer nurse, at Imperial College Health NHS trust Diane Dunn said:

“Going into the box was a really sobering experience. You could hear people moving around outside but inside it was just me.

“Having worked with people diagnosed with cancer for 20 years the box gave me a very real experience of the isolation felt by cancer sufferers.

“I would echo the words of Macmillan and call on families, friends and even work colleagues to reach out to people they know have cancer to let them know they are not alone.”

The Isolation Box was installed as part of the charity’s Not Alone campaign. In an instant, members of the public were taken from the hustle and bustle of one of the capital’s busiest stations, into an isolated box with just their own reflection and the voices of real people talking about how lonely they felt after being diagnosed with cancer.

Laura Keely, campaign manager at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We know only too well that loneliness can have a devastating impact on people’s lives. Quite often friends and family simply don’t understand what someone is going through and how utterly lonely a cancer diagnosis can make them feel. With 2.5 million people in the UK now living with cancer  we simply can’t be there for everyone that needs us. That’s why we are calling on people to reach out to someone affected by cancer today. Even the smallest gesture - offering a cup of tea and a chat – can make a massive difference.”

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To help people reach out to someone they know with cancer, Macmillan has launched The Source, a new website full of advice and inspiration on how to offer the support they need whether that’s going to a hospital appointment with them, offering to cook a hot meal, or helping them access advocacy services. Visit for more information.

The box was installed in Paddington station on 11 February and is now on a regional tour. You can hear about the experiences of those who entered the box here:

To find out more about Macmillan Cancer Support and the Not Alone campaign, go to or follow #NotAlone on Twitter.


Notes to editors:

1. Macmillan Cancer Support and Ipsos MORI research into isolation and loneliness amongst people affected by cancer.

2. New figures released by the charity reveal an estimated 550,000 people in the UK – 22% of those living with cancer – suffer with loneliness as a result of their cancer . Research also reveals the devastating impact that loneliness can have on people’s lives, with many forced to skip meals or attend vital appointments alone. At worst this can result in patients refusing treatment altogether. Of those who are lonely, almost half (47%) feel this way despite having as much social contact as they want and more than half (56%) are married or have a partner , showing that loneliness can affect even those surrounded by family and loved ones.