Leading charity Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has called on the NI Executive to build a fresh vision for cancer and end the complacency that accepts poorer outcomes for local people.
Launching its Manifesto at Stormont, Cancer Focus NI’s Chief Executive, Roisin Foster, warned that patient outcomes are on a par with those in some Eastern European countries for certain cancers.
Speaking at the launch, Mrs Foster said: “We are asking the NI Executive to declare a fresh vision for cancer – one that has ambitious and measurable targets and that will take the fight against cancer forward in Northern Ireland. The recently reviewed Cancer Service Framework is not a substitute for a comprehensive vision and an overarching strategy to fight cancer.”
Among the areas of concern raised in Cancer Focus NI’s Manifesto are:
*Patients in Northern Ireland continue to be denied access to life extending cancer drugs that are available in other parts of the UK
* Cancer waiting times have worsened, consistently failing to meet ministerial targets
*Cancer cases are projected to rise considerably – by 2035 they are set to rise by 65% among men to 7,181 and by 63% for women to 6,967
*A number of important public health initiatives have yet to be implemented including minimum unit pricing of alcohol and setting a target date to achieve a ‘Tobacco Free Northern Ireland’
*Public awareness of common signs and symptoms of cancer continues to be lower in Northern Ireland than other developed countries.
Mrs Foster said: “Cancer Focus NI recognises the positive steps that have been taken during the current Assembly’s lifetime, which are aimed at reducing the burden of cancer. They include the Tobacco Retailers Act which seeks to prevent young people taking up smoking, support for standardised packaging of tobacco products, and the launch of the Be Cancer Aware campaign, increasing public awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer.
“We are urging Government to produce an ambitious strategy that sets out how it intends to make Northern Ireland world class for cancer prevention and cancer outcomes. We have seen this approach recently in England through ‘Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England’. People here deserve no less.”
Tracy Martin, from Banbridge, is a breast cancer survivor who lost her father, Brian Coburn, to the disease. A dedicated campaigner for a better deal for cancer patients, Tracy said: “The statistics on cancer diagnosis, survival and death due to this horrendous disease fill me with dread.
“Around half of us will get cancer or be affected by it. I urge our politicians to make cancer their priority. Pledge to make a difference, and make it now. Get Northern Ireland back in line with the rest of the UK in its cancer treatments.”