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25 receive cancer diagnosis every day, but it's no longer a death sentence

By Victoria O'Hara

For more and more people, cancer is no longer seen as a killer disease in Northern Ireland.

Survival rates have increased significantly over the past 10 to 15 years.

There are still around 9,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the province, but more people than ever are living with cancer as a chronic illness. Statistics revealed this year show that, on average, 25 people here are diagnosed every day with cancer.

Cancer experts say this increase is partly due to risk factors such as drinking alcohol, smoking and being overweight. However, the main reason is the ageing population - as there are more people living longer, more will develop the disease.

Survival has doubled in the last 40 years due to improvements in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Overall rates of people being diagnosed with cancer have climbed by around a tenth between 1993 and 2011. In 1993, around 370 per 100,000 were diagnosed with the disease. This rose to almost 405 per 100,000 in 2011.

Clinical trials have also led to more people surviving it. Compared to only 30 patients who were entered into trials in 1998, there are annually now more than 1,000 patients. However, there remains a problem with patients accessing certain drugs that could extend their life. Northern Ireland has now some of the highest breast cancer and melanoma survival rates in the UK and Ireland. Survival rates for breast cancer here were 81.9%. The overall survival rate for breast cancer across Europe is 82.4%.

Northern Ireland's Comprehensive Cancer Services programme is regarded as being a key reason behind the successful battle against cancer. It is a collaboration led by Queen's University in partnership with the Department of Health and the five health and social care trusts, with support from the medical research industry. Scientific teams based close to the City Hospital involve around 300 leading researchers who are drawn from 36 countries.

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