The number of cancer survivors in Ireland is set to double from 173,000 to almost 350,000 over the next 25 years.
According to the National Cancer Survivorship Needs Assessment, Living With and Beyond Cancer, cancer survivors face a number of challenges and action needs to be taken to address more fully their needs and the needs of their families.
The assessment, launched yesterday by Health Minister Simon Harris, concludes that, while most cancer survivors live well, around a quarter "have one or more physical or psychological consequences of their cancer treatment that affects their life in the long-term and many more who have a shorter term symptom burden that needs addressing".
The assessment, which outlines the key challenges involved, concludes that those who are poorer, isolated, have co-morbid conditions, live alone or are elderly tend to have the greatest need.
We must ensure we provide comprehensive cancer care for patients in Ireland who are living with and beyond cancer.
"It is crucial that we provide the support required to allow people to manage the impact this has on them, their family, work and society," said Minister Harris, speaking at the launch.
“Focusing on quality of life, rather than just surviving, is a key concern of patients, the minister added.
The assessment notes that, following acute treatment for cancer, most follow-up care is delivered in hospitals, pointing to a need to review this to ensure better integration between primary care, community care, palliative care and specialist services.
"Routine follow-up care and surveillance by standardised protocols individualised to the patient can be safely delivered in other settings with appropriate care planning,” says the report.
Also speaking at the launch, Louise Mullen, the lead for cancer survivorship in the National Cancer Control Programme, said cancer patients often feel like they have been "set adrift after active treatment for cancer is complete.
"However, this is a time that people need support for self-management and alleviation of physical and psychological symptoms which have persisted," she added.
Averil Power, chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, welcomed the assessment's recommendations and called for the Government to quickly put them into action.
Meanwhile, new research has revealed that three out of four Irish adults don’t fully understand what HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is, despite it being so common that almost all sexually active men and women will likely become infected with the virus at some stage in their lives.
The research, carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes and commissioned by MSD Ireland, highlights a lack of understanding and awareness of HPV or Human Papillomavirus ahead of children going back to school and consent letters being sent to parents as part of the HPV immunisation programme. This year will be the first time that boys are included in the programme.
Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation, said: “It is encouraging to see HPV awareness is improving. However, this survey shows there is work still to be done. Each year in Ireland, up to 130 people die from cancers caused by HPV."