Charity warns that Ireland's growing and ageing population faces cancer epidemic

The country is facing a "cancer epidemic" with rising numbers of people being diagnosed with the disease, a leading health charity has warned.

Unless the health system is properly equipped to deal with the increase, the ability to deliver the best outcomes for patients will diminish, the Irish Cancer Society has said.

Although there is an increase in the number of people being diagnosed with cancer, more sufferers than ever before are winning the battle against the disease, the organisation added.

According to the National Cancer Registry's annual report more than 40,000 people in Ireland are diagnosed with cancer or a related tumour each year.

While about 9,000 people are dying from the disease annually, figures from the report show that there are more than 165,000 cancer survivors in Ireland.

Donal Buggy, head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said the rates of cancer per 100,000 people in Ireland appear to be stabilising.

He warned however that because of the growing and ageing population, the number of people in Ireland being diagnosed with the disease continues to rise.

He added: "As such, we are facing into a cancer epidemic. If our health system is not properly equipped to deal with this, our ability to deliver the best outcomes for patients will diminish.

"It is hugely welcome to see that more people are surviving cancer.

"This is largely due to better treatments and earlier diagnosis through screening and greater public awareness of symptoms."

Mr Buggy stressed the importance of a National Cancer Strategy, which includes increasing the proportion of cancers diagnosed at an earlier stage so that more lives can be saved.

He said the strategy should also offer cancer survivors a treatment summary and care plan to better communicate and co-ordinate survivorship care.

"This vision requires investment to make it a reality. The Government needs to ensure that resources are frontloaded and made available early in the strategy to ensure its recommendations are fully implemented," he added.

Mr Buggy also stressed that four out of 10 cancer cases are preventable by making simple lifestyle choices, as outlined in the European Code Against Cancer.

He has urged everyone to visit the website to find out how to reduce their risk.

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