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70,000 people living with cancer

Almost 70,000 people are living with cancer in Northern Ireland, according to a new study.

Belfast has the highest concentration of cancer patients with 7,038 people battling strains of the illness.

The report by Queen's University and Macmillan Cancer Support also found that survival rates had risen by 3.5% over the past 20 years.

"This report lets us see that cancer is no longer a death sentence for everyone who receives a diagnosis. There are many people in Northern Ireland with cancer who live their normal lifespan," said Dr Anna Gavin, director of Queen's University's Northern Ireland cancer registry.

The study provides the first detailed picture of cancer prevalence, which is defined as the number of living people who have ever had a cancer diagnosis.

Between 2002 and 2010 the number of men living with cancer rose by 6.2% while for women the rate went up by 3.2%.

The cancer most people are living with is the rarely fatal non-melanoma skin cancer. Prostate cancer was the next most common among men (6,646) while 11,393 women are living after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Increases in cancer prevalence can be attributed to several factors including an ageing population and higher levels of obesity. In addition, advances in treatment such as screening have helped more people to live longer. More women are also surviving cervical cancer - up from 550 in 2002 to 695 survivors in 2010.

Heather Monteverde, general manager of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "Cancer remains a major public health issue in Northern Ireland but the cancer story is changing. It used to be the case that either people were cured of their cancer or they died, often very quickly. With the number of cancer survivors increasing, we now know that many people need more support after treatment to meet their ongoing needs and to live with cancer as a long-term illness."

Lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death with an average of 887 people dying from the disease in each of the years from 2006 to 2010, out of a total of 1,030 cases diagnosed in each year.

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