Charity patron and golf legend Padraig Harrington joined the CEO of the Oesophageal Cancer Fund (OCF) Carmel Doyle to launch Lollipop Day which takes place on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24thFebruary this year.
OCF volunteers will be on hand in over 20 centres throughout Dublin, as well as at 80 locations nationwide to sell lollipops on those days.
The charity is urging people in Dublin, who can’t donate cash for the lollipops, to donate online at www.ocf.ie or to organise their own school, club or company fundraiser this year.
Ireland has one of the highest rates of Oesophageal Cancer in Europe with over 500 people diagnosed each year.
Oesophageal Cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide and is more common among men than among women by a ratio of 3 to 1.
In Ireland the progress of 9,000 at risk patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus, a pre-indicator of potential Oesophageal Cancer, is being tracked across six hospitals and OCF has been a pioneer funder of this research.
Moreso than with many other cancers, the early signs of Oesophageal Cancer are easy to overlook.
Many people could be tempted to dismiss what can seem to be digestive complaints.
Early detection is vital, and OCF works to promote awareness of the signs and symptoms of the cancer.
The charity is using Lollipop Day to also urging the Irish pharmaceutical sector to promote early detection by carrying bigger and better warnings on their antacid packaging and through their advertising, as they do in the US market for example.
OCF says that it is more important than ever to raise vital funds to spread awareness about Oesophageal Cancer, Carmel Doyle says; “The good news is that survival rates show a 50% improvement in Ireland.
“We need to work to improve that figure by encouraging early detection and improving the knowledge around the symptoms of Oesophageal Cancer.
“For that we need donations from the public.
“Primarily, these symptoms include difficulty swallowing, persistent acid indigestion, heartburn and reflux and unexplained weight loss.
“Unfortunately, approximately 70% of patients experience these symptoms for 3 months before contacting their GP and we urge people to go to their GP early.”
Padraig Harrington, Patron of the Oesophageal Cancer Fund said: “I’m delighted to support the work of the OCF and to help spread awareness through Lollipop Day about the symptoms of this terrible cancer and to encourage people to book an early GP appointment.
“Unfortunately, my family has experienced the devastation of this cancer, having lost my Dad to it in 2005.
“He had been experiencing symptoms for quite some time and an earlier diagnosis could have made a big difference.
“What we do know for sure is that early detection saves lives and that’s why awareness building is so important.”
Carmel Doyle, whose husband Gerry was diagnosed with this cancer in 2011 and has recovered very well said: “Early detection not only saves lives, but it also saves money in the Irish healthcare system.
“That’s why knowing the symptoms really matters and we want people to act fast.
“We are very proud at OCF of the work we do in patient support, early detection and research, and the funds raised through Lollipop Day are vital in keeping all of that going.
“It is a very scary cancer but with more patients, like my husband Gerry, sharing their stories and driving this awareness campaign, along with our Patron Padraig Harrington, we can beat this cancer through knowledge, action and care.
“And, for those who are diagnosed with this cancer, they should know that they don’t walk this difficult pathway alone, and we will be there by their side, through our patient support programme.”
Patient support and networking is hugely important for those affected and OCF is funding five local patient support meetings around the country this year, in addition to educational workshops and literature on diet, exercise, sleep patterns and wellbeing for those affected.
For more information on Lollipop Day, to volunteer, or to make a donation, please go to www.ocf.ie
Collection locations across Dublin include Omni Shopping Centre, Jervis Shopping Centre, Nolan’s in Clontarf, Drumcondra, Beaumont Hospital and Centra in Malahide, Grafton Street, Stephens Green Shopping Centre, Nutgrove Shopping Centre, St. James Hospital, Baggot Street, Bloomfield in Dun Laoghaire, Terenure, Blackrock, Sallynoggin, Ashleaf Shopping Centre in Crumlin, the Square in Tallaght, Morton’s in Ranelagh, Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt, Dunnes Stores in Saggart, the Beacon and Dunnes Stores in Sandyford and the Mill Centre in Clondalkin.