Drug offers hope to ovarian cancer sufferers in Northern Ireland
An ovarian cancer patient from Larne has spoken of her hopes as a "ground-breaking" new drug has been approved for use in Northern Ireland for the first time.
Carol Bareham (46) was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2015.
She's currently completing her third round of chemotherapy but is now eligible to receive niraparib on the NHS.
Mrs Bareham is hopeful the treatment will slow her illness down and help her avoid "hideous" chemotherapy for as long as possible.
"It's not going to cure me. The trick is living with cancer rather than dying from it," she said.
"Niraparib will hopefully give me scope to carry on living with this disease as long as I can, which could be months or years."
The medication is already available in England, Scotland and Wales.
Target Ovarian Cancer, who campaigned to introduce the drug here, say the "targeted treatment" effectively cripples cancer cells by stopping them from repairing themselves.
Official figures from the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry say an average of 221 local women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year.
Around 120 die each year from the condition, the equivalent of one every three days.
Mrs Bareham, who is married with two teenage children, is currently on sick leave from her role as a science technician in Larne High School.
"I still like to come in for a cup of tea and catch-up," she said.
"It can be quite a handful trying to juggle family life and my treatment."
One way she deals with pressure is with a blog of her experiences, with the fitting title 'Ovar reaction'.
She said the chance to avoid further chemotherapy would change her life.
"It's pretty horrendous to go through. You're lucky to feel good one week out of three," she said.
"I dread to think what it would have been like years ago without the steroids and anti-sickness drugs now available."
She continued: "Having this treatment is a huge deal for so many women here. Many of them have had no access to inhibitor drugs up to now. I won't know till I try it but it's better that I at least get a chance. I always hope for the best rather than wait for the worst."
Roisin Foster, chief executive of Cancer Focus NI, welcomed the news and said the development was of the "utmost importance" to women in NI.
"It means that there is another drug available to specifically target this type of cancer," she said.
"It potentially offers patients more precious time with their families, improves the quality of life and eases symptoms, which is a hugely valuable gift to anyone who has terminal cancer."
Rebecca Rennison, Target Ovarian Cancer's director of Public Affairs, said the announcement is a "game changer".
"Now that new drugs approved on the Cancer Drugs Fund in England have been made available here too, women in NI finally have parity with the rest of the UK," she said.
For more information visit www.targetovariancancer.org.uk