Here is what the Govt’s new cancer strategy means for cancer patients over the next 10 years

The new cancer strategy has been unveiled, in a bid to reduce cancer rates in the next 10 years.

Bowel and breast screening will be extended, and the push to make Ireland tobacco-free by 2025 continues, in a strategy that is predicted to cost up to €2bn in total.

Ireland has an ageing population, and is predicted to almost double its cancer rates by 2040.

Health Minister Simon Harris says he expects to spend €140m a year, not including the cost of drugs.

He said: "Implementation of this strategy will require substantial current and capital funding over the coming 10 years, but quite frankly we cannot afford not to do this.

"It is my intention to seek to ensure the necessary funding on an incremental basis through the annual estimates process."

          Key recommendations in the Strategy include:

        • HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme to develop a cancer prevention function in conjunction with the broader Healthy Ireland initiative;

        • Appropriate endoscopy capacity to be provided in hospitals to allow for the expansion of BowelScreen to all aged 55-74 by end-2021;

        • Development of a plan to enhance the care pathways between primary and secondary care for specific cancers;

        • HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme to develop referral criteria to ensure that GPs have direct access to cancer diagnostics within agreed timelines;

        • The appointment of a National Lead for Cancer Molecular Diagnostics for solid and liquid malignancies;

        • An age appropriate facility to be designated for adolescents and young adults with cancer within the new children’s hospital;

        • Links between cancer services to be strengthened, facilitated by the appointment of a National Clinical Lead in Geriatric Oncology;

        • Cancer consultants and Advanced Nurse Practitioners to have protected time to pursue research interests in their new posts;

        • Appointment of a National Clinical Lead for Cancer Nursing to support practice and research;

        • HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme to develop, publish and monitor a programme of national quality healthcare indicators for cancer care, in line with international standards.

Dermot Breen, Chairman of the Irish Cancer Society said "we are particularly pleased to note the creation of the role of Lead of Psycho-oncology".

He said: "This is a recognition by the State of the psychological effects of cancer. The Irish Cancer Society has heard over and over again from cancer patients and their families that, as the word ‘cancer’ is spoken, the person vanishes and a patient and tumour are left behind.

"All focus turns to treatment while the emotional needs of the person with cancer are often overlooked. Having the right support, at the right time and from the right people is vital to how people experience and deal with their cancer and life afterwards.

"We also welcome the commitment to carrying out a ‘Needs Assessment’ for cancer survivors. The Irish Cancer Society knows that cancer can bring financial, practical and social issues with it, so we will ensure the Government’s response to the Needs Assessment proposes adequate solutions to these problems, improving the lives of people who have been affected by cancer and their families."

However, the society has identified certain areas where the strategy could and should go further. “

Mr Breen said: "The fact that there are no targets in the National Cancer Strategy around reducing people’s risk of cancer is disappointing.

"While we welcome the fact that a new Cancer Prevention function will be established within the National Cancer Control Programme, the overall responsibility for influencing people’s health behaviours remains with Healthy Ireland. Of the 40,000 cases of cancer that are likely to be diagnosed annually by 2020, four in ten of these could be avoided by a healthy lifestyle.

"Healthy Ireland’s health promotion policies will specifically impact the cancer rate in Ireland and need firm commitment."

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