The Big C & Me: 7 things we learned from the BBC's hard-hitting documentary on cancer


The BBC's new documentary series The Big C & Me follows nine cancer patients from across the UK as they undergo treatment.

From the moment when they are diagnosed, the series shows what life is like for those who have been hit with the illness.

1. Every year in the UK, more than 350,000 people are told they have cancer.

Around two and a half million people live with cancer in the UK and 1,000 people are diagnosed ever day. Almost half of those diagnosed with cancer will survive the disease, the figures in the documentary reveal.

2. Men can get breast cancer too.

The Big C & Me.
Dominic (BBC)

The figures aren't as high as women, but men can get breast cancer too.

Dominic, who lives in Leeds, was diagnosed with breast cancer. He learns that he is one of the few men in the country to be diagnosed with the disease.

"You have every reason to be hopeful that it can get sorted out," his doctor tells him. "And you have every reason to be hopeful you can carry on doing what you are just doing."

Figures from Breast Cancer Care show around 340 men are diagnosed each year in the UK. And most men who get breast cancer are over 60, although younger men can be affected with the disease.

3. When you first hear you have been diagnosed with cancer, it can be very daunting.

A mammogram (Rui Vieira/PA)

The diagnosis can be totally be out of the blue and hit hard.

"That first moment you think, 'Gosh life's got to come to an end'," says one patient suffering from cancer.

Dominic adds: "The Big C - it is a bit scary, it is the worst word in the dictionary... sometimes I think 'Why me', but to be fair, I have never looked after myself."

4. And those who are battling with the disease know it all too well.

5. You learn to be patient. There are a lot of tests, a lot of treatments and you are in a constant state of worry.

"I though I was coping with it very well - during the day," says Yvette who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. "But during the night, everything goes through your head.

"When you feel tired and you are feeling drained you just have to rest - that's when you get that eccentric coming in."

6. There is only a 33% chance of survival following a bone marrow transplant.

The Big C & Me.
Sally (BBC screenshot)

Donors are hard to find and even if there is one available, it doesn't guarantee success. Sally, a Welsh farmer's wife, spent 10 years fighting cancer.

She underwent bone marrow transplant that was her final chance, but because of the intensity of the treatment, it was carried out in an isolation suite.

Sadly we learned the treatment hadn't worked for her and Sally died four weeks after the transplant.

7. People can live with cancer for more than 20 years.

The Big C & Me.
Yvette (BBC)

Yvette, a former marketing manager for a publishing house, has been battling breast cancer for more than 20 years.

But her old treatments no longer work and despite a double mastectomy and various radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the disease spreads to her sternum, ribs and bones.

Yvette is forced to seek new drugs at the forefront of medical advances.

She was offered the chance of being included in a clinical trial which seemed to be working for her.