Europa Donna Ireland welcomes launch of the third National Cancer Strategy

Europa Donna Ireland welcomes the launch of the third National Cancer Strategy. It is a step forward in the treatment and care of those with a cancer diagnosis. However, we will continue to closely monitor progress with regard to cancer care in Ireland and to tirelessly advocate for the best standards of care for all our members.

This is the first time that patients have had an active input in the National Cancer Strategy through Patient Forum. Europa Donna Ireland were represented on this forum by voluntary board member Fiona McEntee, breast cancer survivor and also a registered nurse working in the acute hospital service. 

The third National Cancer Strategy (2017-2026) has today been launched by the Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris, at an event in Iveagh House, St Stephen’s Green.  The strategy has been broadly welcomed by Europa Donna Ireland, the patient advocacy group working for better breast cancer services throughout Ireland.

The new National Cancer Strategy – which has taken two years to develop– aims to meet the needs of people diagnosed with cancer over the coming decade.  It builds on the previous two strategies (1996) and (2006). 

According to the National Cancer Registry, approximately 37,000 new cancers were diagnosed in Ireland in 2013, the most recent year available. Cancer accounted for 30% of all deaths in Ireland in 2013.

Prevention as a Priority

The new National Cancer Strategy recognises that in the next decade prevention needs to be a priority. Lifestyle and environmental factors are attributed in an estimated 40% of cancer cases. Smoking, alcohol intake and obesity are seen as major risk factors. With the decrease in smokers and the implementation of the Healthy Ireland programme, it is expected that the numbers of new cancers caused by these factors will decrease significantly over the next decade. 

Psychological Care

From the outset, the Patient Forum had a strong focus on improving all aspects of the Patient’s Care Pathway  particularly on the importance of Psychosocial and Pyscho-oncology care. The second National Cancer strategy  2017-2026  recommended that the HSE ensure access to comprehensive Psychological support to cancer patients and their families. Europa Donna Ireland note it is disappointing that, to date, only two of the eight dedicated Cancer Centres nationwide provide this service. The creation of dedicated services in the remaining Cancer Centres needs to be an urgent priority of this strategy.

Survivorship Programmes and Individual Treatment & Care Plans

The introduction of survivorship programmes is specified in the third National Cancer Strategy. Europa Donna Ireland welcomes the inclusion of survivorship programmes in this strategy. Undoubtedly, people are living longer post-cancer. While they are living fuller, more-active lives, they may still need ongoing support. Survivorship programmes are hugely beneficial to the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of people who have had a cancer diagnosis.

The third National Cancer Strategy envisions survivorship programmes that will be provided with the assistance of voluntary cancer support centres, outside of the acute care setting of hospitals. 

The plan to introduce individual Treatment and Care plans is also envisaged in the third National Cancer Strategy . Europa Donna Ireland anticipate that individualised plans will be of great value, not only to the patient and their carers, but also the Multidisciplinary team. Patients will be placed squarely at the centre of individualised Treatment and Care plans; a situation that will allow for the smooth transition of care across medical facilities.

Monitoring & Advocating

It is estimated by the National Cancer Registry that the numbers diagnosed with some form of malignancy will almost double by 2040.

It is obvious that as our population ages and more and more people survive cancer, the demands on the health service will increase significantly. It is vital therefore that significant resources are put in place, so that safe and timely care can be provided for all members of our nation irregardless of their geographic location or their financial status.