“Cancer is a big problem here in Tipperary as indeed it is elsewhere in Ireland. This year more than 40,000 people will receive the news from their doctor that they have cancer and their world and that of their families will be turned upside down. That figure represents 110 new cases every single day of the year; 4 of those cases each day will be from Co. Tipperary. Those numbers are set to double over the next 25 years – within our lifetime 1 in 3 of us will be diagnosed with cancer”. So stated Dr. Robert O’Connor, Head of Cancer Research with the Irish Cancer Society, on Saturday night last in the Templetuohy Community Centre, during a most informative discussion.
Most recent data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland shows that more than 36,500 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2013, while 1,354 of these people were residents of Tipperary.
Here is a breakdown of the most common cancers in Tipperary in 2013:- 345 – non-melanoma skin cancer, 132 – breast cancer, 124 – prostate cancer, 70 – lung cancer, 87 – bowel cancer, 32 – melanoma skin cancer.
An estimated 170,000 people are now living with and beyond cancer in Ireland.
[Note: Figures taken from NCRI data – figures may change over time as data is adjusted.]
Speaking to some 80 persons assembled in Templetuohy on Saturday night last, Dr O’Connor, himself a lecturer in Biological Sciences in the School of Nursing & Human Sciences and a Senior Programme Leader in Translational Cancer Pharmacology Research at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology stated; “When the cancer society was founded in 1963, the word ‘Cancer’ usually meant a death sentence. However, due to advances in care delivered through global and national research efforts, today 6 in 10 people will be alive 5 years later and more than 5 people in 10 will be cured.
Over the last 25 years, in which I have been involved as a researcher, I’ve witnessed the huge growth in knowledge about the many different forms of cancer. The Irish Cancer Society has been the major funder of that research here in Ireland. For example, right now we have 84 Irish researchers engaged in activities in top Universities and Hospitals all across Ireland and we help support almost all cancer clinical trials in this country. But I’ve also observed and learned at first-hand that cancer isn’t just about the cells or the tumour. The person affected is equally important and this is where supports can be a major aid in helping people come to terms with their illness and its treatment.”
Self Helping Our Bodies
Dr O’Connor continued, “The many different forms of cancer may seem like an impenetrable and enormous challenge but research has shown that there are many things that we can do for ourselves, through simple lifestyle factors, thus aiding the prevention of 4 in 10 of all known cancers:-
(1) Never smoking or giving up if we do smoke.
(2) Being careful in the sunshine.
(3) Being careful with our diet and not eating too much, so you can manage your weight.
(4) Get plenty of exercise.
(5) Early detection – many forms of cancer can be cured if caught early enough.
(6) Being alert to signs and symptoms and attending our doctor. While doctors are under enormous pressure; we have some of the top healthcare professionals (both doctors and nurses) in the world working to improve our help. Listen to them and stop paying attention to ‘quack stuff’ you read about, being shared on social media sites like Facebook.”
Dr. O’Connor continued; “We have to redouble our efforts to ensure that with treatment centres we don’t just treat the tumour cells, but also help the patient and their family to thriving as best they can after treatment. Support those in your community who are battling cancer. We are grateful tonight for the support we have received in Tipperary, as 98% of our money comes from these donations without whose help the Irish Cancer Society would disappear overnight.
A few of the ways we can assist ourselves, our family & community
(1) Talk about cancer. Take the stigma and fear away, so that people can take control.
(2) Inform yourself with facts and not the myths and rumours on the likes of Facebook, e.g. (a) How can you prevent cancer in your family. (b) Learn the early signs to watch out for and become more ware.
(3) Talking about it to people who might need help and get them the professional advice and support they need.
(4) Protect your children through:- (a) No smoking; the X-HALE initiative is rolled out by the Society each year as part of the ongoing fight to decrease the number of young people smoking. Youth groups across Ireland are supported in creating their own anti-smoking campaigns to encourage their peers and communities to be tobacco free. (b) Good diet; moderate alcohol, keeping weight under control. (c) Exercise regularly. (d) Protect against excess sun exposure. The Society is working with the GAA Cúl Camps nationwide to introduce ‘SunSmart’ messages to children through the GAA Cúl Camps. In 2015, the Society engaged with 880 children through the Fun in the Sun initiative. (e) Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination is a vital and safe way to prevent cervical and other cancers in adult life.
(5) Volunteer – our volunteer driver service provides transport for people to their medical appointments
(6) Fund-raising (we simply wouldn’t exist without funds like those you are giving us tonight) but local cancer support services also need your support too, so be a friend to the local support services here in Tipperary (SuirHaven – Thurles, / CARE Cancer Support – Clonmel and Suaimhneas – Nenagh).
(7) We still have a way to go to banish the fear and empower ourselves to bring an end to the burden of cancer. Men in particular need to be attentive to the early signs and symptoms. Their wives can be lifesavers by encouraging men to attend a doctor. Many forms of cancer are curable if caught early.
Remember supports are here and if you ever have any questions about any aspect of cancer call our nurse line Tel: 1800 200700,” concluded Dr. O’Connor.
Cancer Research in Ireland
Since 2010, the Society has spent close to €14 million on cancer research making it the leading voluntary funder of cancer research in Ireland. This investment has supported more than 120 cancer researchers, from laboratory researchers – to research nurses – to population scientists – to work on a diverse range of individual or collaborative projects that will ultimately lead to better ways of diagnosing and treating cancer. Some of these initiatives include significant investments in collaborative cancer research initiatives, such as, BREAST-PREDICT, a €7.5 million initiative focused exclusively on breast cancer research, and Blood Cancer Network Ireland, a €2.7 million clinical research network for blood cancers, co-funded by Science Foundation Ireland.
In 2015 the Society continued to invest more than €3.3 million in cancer research initiatives and projects throughout Ireland.
Cancer Trials Ireland: Of this €3.3 million investment in 2015, €485,000 was spent on clinical research through the Society’s continued support of the Irish Clinical Oncology Research Group (ICORG). ICORG facilitates access to research treatments in the form of clinical trials for cancer patients in Ireland.
Work Undertaken in Irish Cancer Support
The Cancer Nurseline Freephone is free and confidential, staffed by specialist cancer nurses, providing advice and support to people concerned about cancer. During 2015, our nurses supported 10,942 enquiries on the Nurseline, 72 of these enquiries were from people in Co. Tipperary. Cancer Nurseline Freephone is 1800 200 700.
Booklets and Leaflets: 700,000 publications free of charge through our Cancer Nurseline, our 13 Daffodil centres, through information stands and community presentations, hospitals, GP surgeries, cancer screening programmes and community health clinics. Some 1,162 publications were sent to Tipperary.
Online Cancer Information Service: The website www.cancer.ie provides a range of information to people with cancer, people who want to reduce their risk of getting cancer or to people who want to fight back against cancer 365 days a year. The Society’s online ‘cancer chat’ and social media channels are staffed by Cancer Information Nurses, who can offer online support if this is the preferred medium of the enquirer.
Daffodil Centres: The Society has 13 Daffodil Centres across the country. These are walk-in cancer information and support centres, based directly in hospitals. In 2015, 42,478 people interacted with the Society’s Daffodil Centres. There is one Daffodil Centre in nearby Limerick which received a total of 4,158 enquiries during 2015. The Society has Daffodil Centres in the following hospitals: Letterkenny General Hospital, Co. Donegal; University Hospital Waterford; Bon Secours Hospital, Cork; Cork University Hospital; Beaumont Hospital, Dublin; Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin; St. James’s Hospital, Dublin; St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin; Tallaght Hospital, Dublin; University Hospital Galway; University Hospital, Limerick; The Hermitage Medical Clinic, Lucan; St Luke’s Hospital, Dublin.
Night Nursing: Night nurses care for cancer patients who are at the end of their cancer journey in their own home during the last days of their life. During 2015, the Society’s Night nurses cared for 1,940 patients, providing 7,956 nights of care. Some 82 cancer patients in Tipperary received 361 nights of care.
Volunteer Driver Service: A free transport service, whereby trained volunteer drivers bring cancer patients to and from their hospital treatment. The service operates from 17 hospitals across the country. They are: St. Vincent’s University Hospital; Sligo General Hospital; St. James’s Hospital; Letterkenny General Hospital; Mater Misericordiae University Hospital; University Hospital Limerick; Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe; Tallaght Hospital; Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown; Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore; Waterford Regional Hospital; Cork University Hospital; The Mercy University Hospital Cork; Kerry General Hospital; Galway University Hospital; Mayo General Hospital; Cavan General Hospital. In 2015, the Volunteer Driving Service brought 1,040 patients on 10,822 journeys, travelling 1,086,624 kilometres. Some 397 journeys were facilitated for 41 patients in Tipperary.
Financial Support: The Irish Cancer Society’s Financial Support Programme provides a grant to support cancer patients who are experiencing financial hardship due to their cancer diagnosis. During 2015, Financial Support to the value of €1,551,775 was provided to 2,714 cancer patients across the country. In Tipperary, 110 cancer patients received €59,679 in Financial Support. (From 2016 this programme is now only available to children with cancer and their families).
Counselling: The Irish Cancer Society provide counselling, through cancer support centres around the country, so that cancer patients and their families can access emotional support during and after their cancer journey. Some €349,110 was granted to support centres across the country in 2015 – €17,280 in Tipperary.
Survivor Support: The Survivor Support programme connects someone going through a cancer diagnosis with someone who has been through a similar diagnosis and is several years post treatment. This means a cancer patient can speak to someone who really knows that they are going through. There are 87 Survivor Support volunteers nationwide, who supported over 1,000 patients in 2015.
Cancer Support Centres: The Irish Cancer Society supports local cancer support centres through training, organisational consultancy and grants for approved psycho-social programmes. This is to ensure the highest quality service if offered throughout the country. There were 31 centres, around the country, affiliated to the Society receiving support and grants of over €100,000 in total in 2015. Two of these centres received €2,000 in Tipperary (CARE Cancer Support – Clonmel & Suaimhneas – Nenagh).
Travel2Care: Travel2Care is a transportation assistance fund which has been made available by the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) and is administered by the Irish Cancer Society. This is available to patients travelling to the eight designated cancer care centres (Beaumont Hospital, Mater Misericordiae Hospital, St James’s Hospital, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Cork University Hospital, Waterford regional Hospital, University Hospital Galway and Mid-Western Regional Hospital Limerick) and approved satellite centre (Letterkenny General Hospital). In 2015, €342,048 was made available as part of the fund to 1,272 patients, with €19,119 going to 71 patients in Tipperary.
Advocacy: The Society’s Advocacy Team work at a public policy level, lobbying the Government on a number of issues which could help reduce the risk of cancer for the Irish public: for example: highlighting the ‘Cancer Gap’, the inequality that means where you live has an effect on whether you survive or die from cancer; tackling the Real Cost of Cancer to patients and their families; campaigning to achieve a Tobacco Free Ireland; and extending cancer screening programmes that will save lives.
To Contact Irish Cancer Society, see links:- Cancer.ie, Facebook or Twitter, or Phone Cancer Nurseline, Tel: 1800 200 700.