10/04/2014

Stormont Group Says More Cancer Could Be Prevented

Almost 12,800 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with cancer each year and a significant number of these could be prevented through greater awareness, a new report from the All Party Group on Cancer (APGC) at Stormont has revealed.

The report highlights why cancer remains a major public health issue and the leading cause of death in Northern Ireland. It also calls for legislative changes and a range of measures to be implemented with support from the statutory, voluntary, public and private sectors.

The APGC is made up of 18 MLAs and aims to reduce the impact of cancer on the local community. The APGC heard evidence on a range of issues from patients, clinicians and researchers from the voluntary, statutory and public sectors. The Group's Report makes recommendations on access to cancer drugs in Northern Ireland, the impact of welfare reform, policies to control tobacco and alcohol, inequalities in men's health and the role of primary health care in cancer prevention.

The Group calls on the NI Executive to provide leadership and financial support to improve both population health and cancer services. Among the APGC's recommendations are:

• Standardise packaging for tobacco and prohibiting smoking in private vehicles.

• Implement changes in relation to alcohol pricing, health warnings and advertising.

• Ensure training and support is available for practice nurses and GPs to deliver advice and information on cancer prevention messages in primary care settings.

• DHSSPS and the Executive to work in partnership with the voluntary, statutory, private and public sectors to develop a strategy to improve men's health and lower cancer incidence and mortality rates.

• Take steps to ensure equity of access to cancer drugs in line with the rest of the UK.

• Ensure that cancer patients are signposted to welfare advice as a routine part of their treatment.

APGC Chairman Tom Buchanan MLA said: "Cancer is a disease which has left its mark on many families throughout Northern Ireland and is a major issue for the Health Service.

"Around 245 people each week receive the dreaded news that they have been diagnosed with cancer and on average it claims the lives of 4,000 people each year.

"While survival rates are increasing through intensive research and improved treatments, much more needs to be done to help and support people living with this long term illness."

Vice Chair Cathal Ó hOisín MLA said: "Our lifestyle is an important factor in the prevention of cancer and while we cannot change our genetic makeup, we can take steps to lower the risk of cancer by following a healthy lifestyle.

"The APGC has already been instrumental in using its influence to improve services and will continue to raise awareness through public, professional and political avenues to help improve cancer services and develop policies to reduce the impact of cancer on our communities."

Roisin Foster, Chief Executive of Cancer Focus, which holds the secretariat for the Group, said: "Cancer Focus's mission is to decrease the burden that cancer imposes on our society, and the financial burden on our health service and on our economy, but above all the burden of ill-health and loss placed on individuals and their families.

"One of the approaches we take to our work is to raise public awareness of cancer - how we can lower the incidence of cancer and how we can best support people living with the disease.

"Central to this is effective public health policy and a commitment to continuous improvement in the range of treatment and services available to women, men and children with cancer in Northern Ireland.

"Tackling cancer is an All Party issue, transcending party political agendas. While there is clear evidence that links cancer to social deprivation, everyone in the community will have been affected by cancer. Over 70,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with a cancer diagnosis and one in three will have the disease at some point in their lifetime.

"We trust that our leaders will study the findings in this paper and endorse the recommendations so that fewer people are diagnosed with cancer, that those who are have ever improving outcomes, and that there are the support services to help them deal with the impact of the disease."

(MH/JP)

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