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Young cancer sufferers 'need help': Employers urged to support thousands of workers diagnosed under 45

By Victoria O'Hara

More than 2,000 people in Northern Ireland diagnosed with cancer before the age of 45 are still living with the disease years later, new research has revealed.

It has led to calls for employers to do more to understand the difficulties people face when recovering from cancer and treatment.

The research involving Macmillan Cancer Support shows the number of people diagnosed under 45 and still living with cancer across the UK has reached almost 80,000. And almost 30,000 of these people were diagnosed more than 10 years ago.

In Northern Ireland there are over 1,500 women living with breast cancer and 300 people who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer before reaching 45. Additional Macmillan research shows that people living with cancer aged 25-49 often have other health problems to cope with.

More than one in three (39%) are managing at least one other condition. The charity warns that many people living with cancer from a younger age may not return to full health after the serious side effects of the disease and treatments.

Heather Monteverde, general manager of Macmillan Cancer Support in NI, said hundreds of people in Northern Ireland - and thousands across the UK - are being diagnosed at a young age. "We know that many more people are surviving and living longer with cancer," she said.

"But we also know that many are left having to cope with the long-term consequences of their cancer and side effects of treatment for months, even years. In some cases, the rest of their lives. Fatigue, pain, immobility or depression - these are just some of the potential side effects.

"We need to work with our health and social care services to help people keep the consequences of their cancer and its treatment under control at home, improving their quality of life and, where possible, helping them get back to work."

The NI Cancer Registry and Public Health England's National Cancer Intelligence Network were also involved in collecting the new data, launched at the Cancer Outcomes Conference in Belfast today.

'Sometimes I have no energy and find it hard to concentrate'

Bronagh Corry, a teacher and mum-of-three, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.

She was 39. The Strabane woman has undergone surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy and is finding fatigue - one of the side effects of treatment - difficult to cope with:

"Sometimes I have no energy and find it hard to concentrate," she says.

"Friends and family are very supportive, but once my treatment was over they were expecting me to get back into my normal routine. I suppose I was too, but it's not as easy as that.

"When you're young, you have your whole working life ahead of you. I've got a young family and need - and want - to get back to work.

"I've tried to start back twice, but found the long school days so tiring. It really shocked me and knocked my confidence. Luckily, my school is very understanding and supportive. I'll be going back in the autumn, but just for two days a week.

"Employers need to understand how hard it can be for someone recovering. They also need to understand people want to get back to work. They just need the right support."

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