BOWEL cancer patients are often left struggling to cope with the disease if they are single or live in deprived areas, new research has shown.

Researchers from Southampton University and Macmillan Cancer Support discovered that lonely, less affluent patients had less confidence than those who were in a relationship or came from wealthy areas.

It means their qualify of life is more likely to decline in the years following diagnosis and treatment.

A university spokesman said: “Bowel cancer patients living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to have little or no confidence in managing their cancer compared with those in the most affluent areas.

“And patients who are single are twice as likely to have little or no confidence compared with those who are married or living with a partner.”

The Colorectal Wellbeing (CREW) study has found that lack of confidence can leave cancer sufferers feeling unable to prevent pain or fatigue from interfering with their everyday lives.

Now Macmillan and the university are calling for patients to be given better long-term support.

They say this should include a more rigorous assessment of their emotional needs, enabling doctors to identify those who lack confidence and ensure they receive the support they need.

The CREW study is monitoring 1,000 bowel cancer patients for five years and is the largest survey of its kind.

Dr Lynn Calman said: “Our study has shown that confidence to manage illness is an important factor in the recovery process and should not be ignored. “Exploring areas where people feel less confident is key if we are to help people through their cancer treatment and beyond. “By considering factors such as a where people live or their marital status, we will be able to ensure people who could be vulnerable through their treatment and recovery are given the support and guidance they need. “More needs to be done to identify and help people who are struggling in the months and years following cancer treatment.”

Dany Bell, specialist adviser in treatment and recovery for Macmillan Cancer Support, added: “Your chance of coping with cancer should not be dictated by where you live or your relationship status. It’s deeply worrying that so many people with bowel cancer are lacking the confidence to cope with pain or fatigue. “It’s even more concerning that this affects so many of those who are single or from a poor area as we know they are already more likely to lack the support they need.”