Cancer chief: We can raise survival rate by 10%

Cancer survival in Ireland could improve by up to 10% with well-organised cancer control systems, according to the head of the National Cancer Control Programme.

Dr Susan O’Reilly told a recent meeting of the Dublin Mid Leinster Health Management Institute of Ireland meeting there were numerous critical success factors in cancer outcomes.

Key factors included population-based screening, early diagnosis, multidisciplinary teams, expert centres, and national standards and processes.

She said essential elements in implementing radical change included a well developed strategy, access to resources, and support from the Department of Health and HSE.

Dr O’Reilly said the number of invasive cancers in Ireland was projected to increase by 46% between 2010 and 2020 and by 108% between 2010 and 2030.

Efforts have been ongoing to cope with the significant increase. Between 2007 and 2009, eight designated cancer centres were established in four networks. In 2009 breast cancer surgery was centralised, and GP referral guidelines and a standardised referral form introduced.

This year, 42,000 new breast, lung, and prostate patients were expected, and nationally the electronic referral was to be embedded in all Irish College of General Practice software systems. More than 80% of GP practices were currently using this system and the target was for 20% online referrals this year.

Dr O’Reilly said phase one of the development of a national network of radiation had been completed with the opening of radiotherapy facilities in two Dublin hospitals — St James’s and Beaumont, with a 50% increase in treatment capacity.

Phase two of the development of the network, for which there is a budget provision of €175m, will see radiation facilities in Cork University Hospital and Galway University Hospital being replaced and upgraded.

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