Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Cancer stats reason to restore Executive

In a separate development yesterday, local families devastated by pancreatic cancer delivered a petition to Stormont demanding faster treatment for the disease
In a separate development yesterday, local families devastated by pancreatic cancer delivered a petition to Stormont demanding faster treatment for the disease

Editor's Viewpoint

The latest shocking cancer statistics reveal that the number of cases in Northern Ireland has increased by 15% in the past 10 years.

This is a rise from 8,269 in 2008 to 9,521 cases in 2017, the latest year for which records are available.

Significantly, the increases are being put down to our ageing population.

The figures released by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR) revealed that 20% of people diagnosed actually die within six months. The research also provides a detailed insight into the prevalence of cancers between 1993 and 2017, and underlines the success of screening programmes.

In a separate development yesterday, local families devastated by pancreatic cancer delivered a petition to Stormont demanding faster treatment for the disease.

Understandably, the very word 'cancer' triggers a whole gamut of emotions, including fear and uncertainty, and behind every one of the 9,521 cases recorded in 2017 there lies a dramatic personal story.

On the positive side, the survival rates for many types of the disease continue to improve, and news of breakthroughs in treatment and care - many of these involving researchers at our two universities - are regular occurrences.

It is also important to remember that the emphasis on early diagnoses undoubtedly contributes to the decrease in mortality rates, and lifestyle changes can also help people lower the risk.

Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly said only last week that "significant progress" had been made over the past 20 years in developing cancer services here.

However, we must prepare for the challenges of the significant growth in demand for those services in future years because of anticipated demographic changes. The local cancer strategy was last updated in 2008, so an updated strategy with the support of the five political parties would help greatly.

While the Department of Health points out that the lack of a Stormont Executive does not rule out the implementation of a new strategy, it is clearly preferable that large parts of the block grant should be subject to ministerial approval.

The NICR has now given us 9,521 very good reasons - if more were needed - why our politicians should go back to Stormont and do the job they were elected to and are well paid for.

Belfast Telegraph

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