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Mr Dermot Breen, Chairman of the Irish Cancer Society, 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.”
He added: “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.”
“We are delighted to see that cancer tests will be more accessible to the people who need them, and this is an issue the Society has long campaigned for. Getting diagnosed early greatly increases the chances of surviving most types of cancer and it should not be dependent on someone’s ability to pay.”
However, the Society has identified certain areas where the Strategy “could and should” go further. “The fact that there are no targets in the National Cancer Strategy around reducing people’s risk of cancer is disappointing,” Mr Breen continued. “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.”
The Society said it is important that the Strategy is “adequately” funded. “In order for the aspiration set out in the National Cancer Strategy to be achieved, there needs to be appropriate resourcing” said Mr Breen. “In addition to this, the Irish Cancer Society wants to ensure that the future needs of patients are anticipated, particularly around financing of cancer drugs and treatments.
“We would strongly support a ring-fenced fund for cancer drugs, which would provide confidence to patients that when a new treatment becomes available, they can access it. As cancer drugs are part of the reason we speak so optimistically about improved cancer survival rates, it’s important that the Government acts strategically by planning for investment in new treatments.”