Select Committee on Health Written Evidence



  The following list is not exhaustive and intended only to illustrate the range of drugs and treatments for which cancer patients might be liable to pay prescription charges.

  Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is an anti-oestrogen drug that arrests/slows the growth of breast cancer cells. It is typically prescribed to breast cancer patients for five years after surgery.

  Anti-nausea drugs. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of both cancer and cancer treatments. Patients are prescribed anti-nausea drugs (anti-emetics) to counteract this problem.

  Mouth care treatments. Radiotherapy can cause dry mouths by retarding saliva production and it is common for patients to be prescribed drugs to stimulate saliva glands or else to be prescribed artificial salivas in the form of sprays, pastilles, gels, or tablets. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause mouth ulcers for which mouthwashes and other treatments can be prescribed.

  Painkillers. Pain is a common effect of both cancer and cancer treatments and patients are commonly prescribed analgesics (painkillers) to relieve pain.

  Lymphoedema treatments. Lymphoedema is the swelling of a limb or other body parts which can be caused by radiotherapy, surgery to remove lymph nodes, or by the cancer itself blocking the lymph nodes. Patients are typically prescribed compression sleeves/stockings or compression bandages to control the swelling.

  Oral chemotherapy. Whilst chemotherapy is most commonly administered intravenously in hospital, it is becoming increasingly common for cancer patients to undergo courses of out-patient chemotherapy by taking prescribed tablets or capsules.

  Skin care treatments. Radiotherapy commonly causes skin burns, soreness and itchiness for which patients may be prescribed creams or dressings. Scaly or thickened skin is also a common symptom of lymphoedema and doctors frequently prescribe moisturisers to treat this.

  Impotence drugs. Impotence is a common side-effect of prostrate cancer treatment for which patients may be prescribed drugs such as Viagra.

  Breathlessness treatments. Breathlessness is a common symptom if someone's lungs are affected by cancer. Patients may be prescribed steroids, bronchodilators, sedatives, and oxygen to treat breathlessness.

  Filters for tracheostomy/stoma tubes. People who have had laryngectomies have to breathe through tracheostomy or stoma tubes and may be prescribed filters to reduce the risk of infection.

  Diarrhoea and constipation drugs. Diarrhoea and constipation are potential side effects of chemotherapy for which drugs can be prescribed. Constipation is also a side effect of anti-nausea drugs.

  Anti-depressants. Depression is a common problem encountered by cancer patients and it is common for patients to be prescribed anti-depressants.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 18 January 2006