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COMMENT: Is your candidate a cancer champion?

By Averil Power, CEO Irish Cancer Society

AT THE Irish Cancer Society, we understand the life-changing impact of cancer.

Every day, we share the worry of people waiting for test results. We share their hope that their cancer is treatable. We share their sorrow when it is not. 

Thankfully, Ireland’s cancer survival rate is improving all the time. 

Thirty years ago, only three out of 10 Irish people survived cancer. Today, thanks to improvements in cancer detection, treatment and care, more than six out of 10 do. 

Some cancers, like childhood blood cancers, that were previously almost always fatal, are now largely curable. Nine out of 10 people also now survive prostate, breast and testicular cancer. 

But unfortunately the prognosis for other cancers is still a lot less positive and our outcomes in some areas lag behind those of other countries. 

There is also a huge amount that needs to be done to help people cope with the emotional and financial impact of the disease. 

Patients often tell me they expected the chemo or radiotherapy to be tough. But they were not prepared for the crippling debt they had to incur, paying for everything from medication to hospital charges and wigs. They didn’t realise it would be so hard to get a medical card. And they didn’t expect to be chased by debt collectors on behalf of the HSE when they couldn’t pay. 

Many also find it incredibly difficult to cope with treatment side effects like incontinence, infertility and depression, with very little State support.

The Irish Cancer Society is doing everything it can to help. Our nurses provide confidential expert advice to patients and their families. Our volunteer drivers bring people to their chemo appointments and back so they don’t have to worry about transport. Our peer support volunteers provide a listening ear. And we fund counselling in local cancer support centres throughout the country. 

But there is so much more that needs to be done. And much of it can only be done by the Government. 

The next Dáil needs to prioritise improvements in cancer care. It needs to address the survival gap so all patients have the best possible chance of life after cancer. It needs to ensure everyone has the support they need to cope with the physical, financial and emotional impact of the disease. And it needs to help Ireland’s growing community of cancer survivors get their lives back on track. 

That’s why we’re asking all general election candidates to sign our pledge on www.cancer.ie and commit to being a cancer champion in the next Dáil. And we’re asking our supporters to raise the issue of cancer with candidates on the doorsteps. 

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