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Cancer screening - why it matters so much to Ulster

Cancer screening saves thousands of lives. But it could save even more. That's the message from Cancer Research UK today as it launches a new campaign aimed at getting 80,000 more people screened for different forms of the disease in Ulster over the next five years.

The research charity and the Belfast Telegraph are joining forces to highlight its Screening Matters initiative and hammer home the importance of screening and early detection.

Screening can help to find cancer at an early stage, when it is likely to be small, more easily removed and less likely to have spread to other parts of the body.

The Screening Matters campaign is calling on politicians here to "get more people into cancer screening programmes and to make sure the programmes are as good as they can be".

Maxine Taylor, executive director of policy and communication at Cancer Research UK, said: "We are asking the Northern Ireland Government to commit to screening at least 80,000 more people over the next five years.

"But it's not just the politicians who can make a difference.

"You can pledge that you will go to screening when invited and that you will encourage your friends and family to do the same.

"The campaign also asks supporters to sign a pledge card, available online or from Cancer Research UK shops, showing their support for the political aims and to make a personal pledge that they will attend screening when invited."

The charity has outlined the UK aims of its campaign in four key points. It is calling for a commitment from the Government to:

  • Screen at least three million more people over the next five years - 80,000 more in Northern Ireland;
  • Reduce the variation in screening across the UK;
  • Reach out to people eligible for screening who aren't taking part; and
  • Provide the best possible screening programmes through funding, staffing and measuring success.
  • Today marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, one of the cancers for which screening is offered in Northern Ireland.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in Northern Ireland. There are around 1,119 incidences every year, including a small number in men.

Around 300 women die here each year, and there are three new cases diagnosed every day.

All women between the ages of 50 and 64 are invited for a free mammogram every three years. But around a quarter of women in this age group do not attend.

Dundonald woman Enid Davidson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine screening, urged people to pledge their support for the campaign.

"Cancer screening probably saved my life. Early detection plays a huge part in successful treatment and I am so thankful my cancer was caught in time," she said.

"That's why I want to be among the first to sign a Cancer Research UK Screening Matters pledge card, to put pressure on the Government to improve screening programmes across the UK.

"I am lucky that I was invited for cancer screening and that I took up the offer."

Ms Taylor said: "Thousands of people like Enid are alive today thanks to breast and cervical cancer screening.

"But current research indicates that at least three million more people could be taking up screening who aren't at present. That means we could be saving many more lives."

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